Jennifer Colten

January 2, 1997 - February 1, 1997

Image © Jennifer Colten

Image © Jennifer Colten

Image © Jennifer Colten

Image © Jennifer Colten

Jennifer Colten

These photographs are part of and ongoing body of work which challenges our cultural concepts of “nature” and confronts our physical responses to the land. The term “nature” is ambiguous. “Nature” as a concept is carefully defined and precisely controlled. these photographs are anything but that. They present spaces which often contain contradictory information. The land is seen as both threatening and sublime. These photographs express complex relationships to our environment. by allowing these photographs to engender physical and sometimes unexpected responses in the viewer, I wish to call into question how we have built our understanding of “nature” and evolved our relationships to it.

“Nature” represented throughout the history of landscape art is a self-contained construct. Landscapes appear comfortably ordered and easily understood. These photographs however, present a view filled with paradoxical perspectives. Here, pictorial “romantic” beauty is paired with discomfort and discord. “Nature” as ever-enduring and awe-inspireing is held in question. Virginal beauty and omnipresent devine presence is hidden or completely absent. These photographs believe what is “truthful” and realistic. Instead what is seen is not accessible or “knowable”. The viewers’ suspended hopes that something will be revealed parallels barriers, twists, and turns, thwarting any passage forward. These photographs merely tantalize. Our preconditioned understanding of “nature” are disrupted as the photographs incite unexpected and visceral responses.

The landscapes depicted on postcards, tourist travel logs, desk calendars and coffee table books present popularized scenic beauty. They have become commonplace and out of place in our late 20th century culture. We must call into question all that we think we “know” about nature and look beyond our preconditioned response to our environment. Possible then we will be more prepared to examine those assumptions and develop a sense of how we have constructed our understanding of the “natural” world.