On View Now:
Ghost Lands: Pictures in Silver
A solo exhibition by William Van Beckum
On View: January 10 – February 9, 2019
Reception: Friday, January 25 @ 7-9PM
Demo & Talk: Saturday, February 9, 2019 @ 3-5PM
In Ghost Lands: Pictures in Silver, artist William Van Beckum recreates landscape images from past and present using a combination of modern and antique photographic techniques to challenge the idea that photography may have a role in the protection of public lands.
Bears Ears National Monument in Utah was one of many national monuments that saw the removal of environmental protections under the Trump administration, opening the land up to gas, oil, and mineral extraction. In “Bears Ears,” three hundred unique photographs of the former monument will cover one entire gallery wall and will be available for purchase to gallery visitors from the artist at the cost of $10, with twenty percent of the proceeds being donated to the “Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.” The pieces will slowly disappear from view as images are sold—a gain for the collector, but a loss for the art viewing experience and the landscape by proxy.
The small and numerous prints of “Bears Ears” are complemented by large reproductions of Watkins and Adams photographs. The reproductions are collaged on traditional silver gelatin paper, using smartphone screens in place of negatives. This process results in recognizably picturesque, yet fragmented versions of the original photographs with outlines and artifacts from the modern device left showing. This loss in clarity suggests that while Watkins and Adams were able to protect land with their photographs, our current cultural practice of re-photographing landscapes and sharing on social media may no longer be enough to save these lands from oil mining, fracking, and other ecologically devastating resource extraction methods.
Read William Van Beckum’s new Putnam & Pearl post about Ansel Adams and landscape aestheticization.