Artist Statement by Linda Rossi
I analyze the implications of the photographic image and how the photo frames and distances its subjects. The work embodies ideas about our contemporary estrangement from nature, about the character of illusion and revelation, and about the power of photography to mediate reality.
In the installation, The Nature Cabinet/Navigating Irony, I have shifted my attention from the experiential and curious viewer emerged in the presentation of Sound Suspended to the viewer as an analytical observer of the display. This installation presents a wall of “cabinet paintings” modeled after the 15th century salon collections. As I print the images onto canvas, I relate to nature as the artist—the interpreter of beauty and terror. I represent the natural relics of the cabinet with images of products that employ nature in their marketing strategy; now I relate to nature as a consumer.
Nineteenth-century American artists of the Hudson River School and their successors painted panoramic landscapes that celebrated the pristine beauty of the untamed American wilderness such as Niagara Falls, infusing it with spiritual significance and national pride. Such scenes inspired a sense of mingled awe, fear, and human insignificance that the Romantics called the sublime.
At a Target store, I find a miniscule echo of Niagara Falls printed on a can of Lysol disinfectant spray. This reference to the pleasure and terror of the American Sublime both soothes my conscience as I buy the mix of chemicals and winks at me in irony. I shoot the product and present it on canvas elaborately framed, emphasizing this reference to the sublime.
I travel to our iconic sites such as Niagara Falls and relate to nature as a tourist. I can view the falls through a coin-operated viewfinder. Knowing the falls has been aesthetically re-engineered I drop a version of nostalgia into the lens. It is the painting by Thomas Cole of Niagara Falls which includes the disturbing idea of the “noble savage” to emphasize its wildness. As a contemporary visitor to the falls I can purchase the plastic “noble savage” as a souvenir. Our visual memories have been conditioned by the history of art. Technology and a troubling nostalgia reinforce a struggle for power.
Continuing my historical progression toward the present, I created The Canon of Paint by Number, in which the representation of landscape is narrowly prescribed: sunset is the required sky, and an under-canvas of numbers is visible within the golden ratio. The name of the camera emphasizes the rules of landscape painting and photography.
The Nature Cabinet/Navigating Irony exhibition encompasses a complex and often troubling relationship with nature. The images range from the beauty of the elusive pink dolphins on the Amazon River to the irony of a simulated landscape at Disneyworld. From the kitchen to Niagara Falls, I’m interested in portraying the breadth of our search for nature’s meaning and how we experience it. Linda Rossi