Sandy Skoglund is a central figure of staged photography, a research field centred on the photographic reproduction of imaginary artificially set up scenes. Her first retrospective, curated by Germano Celant, is on at CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, in Turin. The show features over a hundred artworks and highlights her path from the 1970s up to the present as an ‘image maker’.
Sandy Skoglund. Visioni Ibride, created in collaboration with Paci Contemporary gallery in Brescia, includes the unseen work Winter (2008 – 2018), created by the artist over the last ten years and publicly presented here for the first time. Together with Fresh Hybrid (2008), it is a representations of artificial landscapes that echo the emotional effects produced by seasons. They belong to The Project of the Four Seasons cycle, still in progress. The images are accompanied by sculptures created for the installations shot by the artist, thus emphasizing an imagery suspended between reality and artifice.
“Winter is the culmination of several digital processes I learned in order to create props that are the central focus of the scene, like digitally cut metal snowflakes and the images printed on them, created digitally with ultraviolet-cured ink. I also learned how to “sculpt” the owls and the human figures, by cutting them directly onto digital files”, Skoglund says. “The image is a hybrid of techniques and concepts, that became frozen together by the camera on December 22nd, 2018. In resistance of the quick snapshot, Winter moves at the speed of a glacier. Time stands still for a moment, but only after a long period of accumulation and labor. It is a study of perseverance and persistence, an artificial landscape celebrating the beautiful and frightening qualities of the coldest season. Each fragment of Winter has been chosen to express the primal fear of human dependence on nature” she adds.
Owing to her interest in cinema and directing, Skoglund also immerses real people in her complex tableaux vivants, giving dynamism to her installations, as is evident in her works on show. Her realistic sculptural fantasy is refined in Germs are Everywhere (1984), Radioactive Cats (1980),with its lively acid-green cats threateningly wandering around the chairs and fixed in time, or Revenge of the Goldfish (1981), to name but a few. “I believe there exists a contrast between the aspect of imagination – the animals are like cartoons or fantasies – and reality. Since we, as human beings, consider ourselves the main form of consciousness in nature, I chose to fill my images with animals in order to introduce this alternative consciousness (they are observing the same world that we both live in).” the artist declares.
Seriality and colour are part of Skoglund’s visual language contributing to create enigmatic photographs, as in The Green House (1990), with the thirty-three life-sized statues of dogs of various races.A similar situation of enchantment and suspension can be seen in Raining Popcorn (2001), where a layer of popcorn (a typical junk food) covers the installed landscape in order to describe a scene of rural life.
“Since the beginning of the ’90s, food has been a central aesthetic and communicative element of Skoglund’s reflections”, the curator, Germano Celant says. The transition to a commercial subject is induced by the desire to take photography out of pure conceptualism, inserting it into the world of consumer advertising, in magazines like ‘Vogue’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’. The interest in food, transforming it into a shelter, occurs for instance in The Wedding (1994), where strawberry jam and orange marmalade cover the walls. In this environment, a bride and groom stand behind a wedding cake painted red.
Germano Celant, underlining the peculiarity of her visual path, at the same time installative, sculptural and photographic, defines her artwork like “a constant juggling and transformative act”.
A monographic volume edited by Germano Celant and dealing with Skoglund’s career is published by Silvana Editoriale.
Sandy Skoglund. Visioni Ibride
From January 24 to March 23, 2019
CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia
Via delle Rosine 18, Turin