Curated by Melanie McWhorter
From the Curator:
“Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch. And to come to that understanding it is necessary, even now, to leave the regions of our conquest – the cleared fields, the towns and cities, the highways – and re-enter the woods. For only there can man encounter the silence and the darkness of his own absence. Only in the silence and the darkness can he recover the sense of the world's longevity, of its ability to thrive without him, of his inferiority to it and his dependence on it.” – Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace
Speaking from the vantage point of an often disconnected American, Western society has for hundreds of years been detached from where we live and the resources that we use. We find intermediates to perceive the natural world through many voices and disciplines: Thomas Jefferson's politics, Henry David Thoreau's prose, John Muir's preservation ethic, and Rachel Carson's activism. And those sources change often; what we mean when we say “the environment” or “nature” is not static, but a malleable idea. The compexities of and shifts in our attitudes are arguably most conspicuous in the art that we produce.
Much like the coal miners and oil drillers, artists use the land for their own purposes. Of course, the photographer is not a true equal in land use or abuse as those who scrap, dig, pound and exhaust, but we photographers seek to make even the most polluted and abused landscape into a picture that is pleasing to the human eye. We use the land to create an image that represents an idea of what we see. This exhibition explores the variations of ideas of how we currently depict nature and our connection to the natural world in photography. Together the photographs illustrate how we use, possess, manipulate, display, fear, defend and glorify nature. All photographs have been removed from their original context and appear devoid of artist statements. They are now, in Wendell Berry's words, in silence and darkness.
Melanie McWhorter is the Book Division Manager at photo-eye (photoeye.com). She occasionally takes photographs; curates and reviews photography; and writes and speaks about photobooks. Visit her website, melaniemcwhorter.com