Promised Lands by Donna J. Wan
This series is about perceptions of the contemporary landscape. In the 19th century, the Hudson River School painters established an idealized view of the American landscape with their highly romanticized paintings featuring towering mountains, overwhelming skies, vast fields, and endless seas. Especially with regard to the West, the landscape became a symbol for freedom, opportunity, and exploration. Today depictions of landscape often veer toward extremes – either they are of “pure” places that are untainted by human intervention or they represent locations, sometimes exotic, that have been severely comprised by industry and development. I believe that neither representation is useful because it does not reflect our reality: We live in houses, work in buildings, drive on the road, and enjoy many of the conveniences of modern life – and I don’t think we are prepared to give these up to return to an Edenic time.
Yet I think it is still possible to view the landscape in ways that take into account our hopes and dreams as well as our fears and failures. Hence, I set out to take pictures that had the potential to invoke romanticized notions of the landscape similar to the Hudson River School paintings but, when viewed more closely, also feature man’s impact on the natural world. Sometimes, the effects of modernization seem like slow and inevitable developments onto the land. Other times, urbanization appears to threaten to overtake the landscape. My intent is to question how our perceptions of the landscape have changed over the two centuries, after we have remade a considerable part of it in our image. Does the land, sea or mountain still represent places onto which we can project our hopes and desires? Or, have we become alienated from it and only respond strongly to it when we are shown images of its devastation?
Donna J Wan is a San Francisco, CA based artist.
To view more of Donna's work, please visit her website.