Contemporary Photography and the Garden: Deceits and Fantasiesby Thomas Padon
Gardens have inspired artists for hundreds of years. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, photographers ranging from Eugène Atget to Edward Steichen were drawn to gardens for their beauty and their metaphorical associations. A century later, in the mid-1980s, an unusually large number of artists returned to the garden as a subject for their photography.
This lovely book devoted to the garden photography of contemporary artists accompanies an exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts. The photographs-by Gregory Crewdson, Len Jenshel, Erica Lennard, Sally Mann, Catherine Opie, Jack Pierson, and other acclaimed artists-demonstrate a remarkably wide range of artistic responses to the garden. Whether presenting it as a haven of tranquility and lyrical beauty or drawing on it as a dark visual metaphor for the manipulation of nature, these photographs express the artists' investigation of the forms, atmosphere, and symbolism of the garden. Essays by Thomas Padon, Robert Harrison, Ronald Jones, and Shirin Neshat bring historical and contextual insight to the fascination many contemporary artists have with this popular subject.
Author Bio: Thomas Padon, curator of the exhibition, is deputy director for exhibitions and programs at the American Federation of Arts, where he has organized many major traveling art exhibitions. Robert Harrison teaches philosophy, French and Italian literature, and European cultural history at Stanford University. Ronald Jones is an artist and critic who teaches at art schools in Frankfurt and Stockholm. Shirin Neshat is a New York-based artist whose photographs and videos have appeared in many international exhibitions.
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Thomas Padon's fine book/catalogue (made to accompany a traveling exhibition of the works included) is one to please a diverse audience: garden lovers, art history devotees, and those addicted to the art of fine photography will all find this very special book one of endless pleasure. The concept of the garden as the subject for a photographic essay is a unique one and the artists whose works range from the old concepts to the contemporary and utilizing all manner of camera techniques are some of the best in this field. This is not simply collected garden shots but rather images of the mysteries both immediately accessible and those more occult that require time and repeated exposure to appreciate. The dialogue of the book is provided with fine essays not only by Padon but also by such fine and creative minds as Robert Harrison, Ronald Jones, and Shirin Neshat. But in the end the book is about pictures and these rare images are captured by such disparate artists as Catherine Opie, Sally Mann, Len Jenschel, Jack Pierson, Sally Apfelbaum, Daniel Boudinet, Peter Fischli and David Weiss to name but a few. The gardens are represented by locations from India, Japan, Europe, North and South America and are selected to investigate the symbolism both spiritual and cultural that these wondrous images capture. Every aspect of this book is set with loving care and is worthy of the libraries of everyone in love with the secret treasures of the Garden. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp