Poetics of Place

A changing interplay of composition, light, and the land infuses the haunting photographs of Lynn Geesaman in this first book of her work. Since 1983, this Minnesota-based artist has pursued the aesthetic of a man-altered landscape in poetically resonant style. In her images, the turrets and topiaries of a formal garden are open to a stormy sky, a sheared row of winter trees slices a far-off horizon, algae swirls mesmerizingly on a willow-encircled pond; Lynn Geesaman's work is about presence, and a breathless, near-hallucinatory consciousness is felt in each frame.

In these photographs, the present seems a fragile membrane enveloping the past, making a subtle statement about man's relation to nature. These are landscapes that have been shaped over centuries by ideas carried in men's souls-places on the earth ordered by industry, interpreted as fields, pastures, orchards, and gardens, made in the image and likeness of some idea of nature that we cherish, with an individuality of culture that makes our differences apparent. Italy in Lynn Geesaman's work is not a place given by the gods in its placid beauty. Instead it is a created web of tangled trees and meandering walkways, of stones sleeping in the sun and cypresses reaching to the sky. In marked contrast, the French Cartesian planes of topiary beds and radiating walkways satisfy some craving for lineaments of rational order, some vision of the earth inhabited by gods dressed in gold raiment, walking hand in hand in measured tread on smoothly pebbled paths among perfect shapes and manicured greenery. Lastly, the undulating dikelands of Belgium speak as much of placid control as of a homely, familiar landscape. Geesaman hints at the unmade earth, too-the somber possibility of formless, flat, featureless swamps and frozen wastes. Behind the summer is the specter of a landscape of utter desolation; beyond refinement lie the rudimentary beginnings of life, before culture.

Jamaica Kincaid's elegant introduction explores the mystery, the longing, and the unanswerable questions these photographs pose to the viewer, as well as the trepidation their seductive shadows inspire.

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