The photographs in the series Terraria Gigantica: the World Under Glass explore the world’s largest enclosed landscapes as possible impossibilities: Biosphere 2’s ocean in the Arizona desert, the Henry Doorly Zoo’s desert in the Great Plains of Nebraska, and Eden Project’s tropical rain forest in notoriously gray and cool Cornwall, England. These vivaria are enclosed environments where plants are grown amidst carefully constructed representations of the natural world to entertain visiting tourists. At the same time, however, they support scientific observation and research on the plants and animals housed under these ‘natural conditions’ that require human control of temperature, humidity, irrigation, insects, and weeds to cultivate otherwise impossible environments and species. Taken together, these architectural and engineering marvels stand as working symbols of our current and complex relationship with the natural world.
While the technical and aesthetic demands of these varying missions informed the physical design of these spaces, the required juxtapositions of natural and artificial elements also generate unintentionally striking visual paradoxes that can go unnoticed. In these carefully constructed exhibits, I turn away from the crowds of visitors, looking for views where the illusion gives way. These include vistas referring to the idea of landscape, thresholds signifying architecture and fragments that focus on details. In these margins, these liminal spaces, the natural and the artificial sometimes meet, overlap, and bleed together, or they collide, resist, and contrast with one another. The visual richness of these small details leads to big questions about what it means to create and contain landscapes. They ask us to think about our interactions with and attitudes about the natural world. They ask us to consider whether these spaces supplement or replace the natural world. They ask us to reflect on the distinction between the natural and the artificial. Under the glass, I frame these views and invite contemplation of nature’s future.
The photographs in Views Removed render trees, stones and other natural materials in ways that their scale and perspective become ambiguous, sometimes combining more than one negative to create a "landscape view" that exists only in the final print. The composition and contrast in the resulting gelatin silver prints emulate the white paper background and equivocal space in ink painting traditions that are free from the technical constraints of photography. The photographs are inspired by questions about pictorial space, idealized nature, and landscape as construction and concept, suggesting the history of landscape depictions and the inherent tension between the real and ideal.
Through photography I investigate the ways we shape and represent the natural world in cultivated and constructed landscapes. Through a multi-faceted and exploratory approach I invite contemplation of the idea of "landscape" and our complex relationship with the natural world.
Dana Fritz is a Professor in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches photography. She holds a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Arizona State University. Her honors include an Arizona Commission on the Arts Fellowship, a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange to Japan, the 2013 Society for Photographic Education Imagemaker Award and Juror’s Awards in national exhibitions. University of Nebraska-Lincoln has awarded several grants from the Office of Research and the Hixson-Lied Endowment that have supported her photographic projects in the United States, Europe and Japan. Fritz’s work has been exhibited in over 50 venues in the last decade including the Phoenix Art Museum, Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Houston Center for Photography, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, the Griffin Museum of Photography and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in the U.S. International venues include Château de Villandry in France, Xi’an Jiaotong University Art Museum in China and Toyota Municipal Museum of Art in Japan. Fritz’s work has been published in numerous exhibition catalogs including Encounters: Photography from the Sheldon Museum of Art and Grasslands/Separating Species and was featured in print magazines Orion, Photography Quarterly, Artland and PDNedu. Her portfolios Garden Views, Terraria Gigantica and Views Removed were selected for the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s Midwest Photographers Project from 2004-06, 2008-12 and 2015-17 respectively. Her work is held in several collections including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; New Mexico State University, Las Cruces; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona; Weeks Gallery Global Collection of Photography at Jamestown Community College, New York; the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art; and Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Fritz has been awarded artist residencies at four locations known for their significant cultural histories and gardens or unique landscapes: Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California; Château de Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany, France; Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona; and PLAYA in Summer Lake, Oregon.
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