Poetics of Place

by Lynn Geesaman
Essay by Jamaica Kincaid

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

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 they inspire in their seductive shadows.

In Lynn Geesaman's 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 lies the rudimentary beginnings of life before culture.

About the Authors:

Lynn Geesaman is the recipient of a number of awards, among them an NEA grant, a Bush Foundation Fellowship, a Jerome Foundation Grant, a McKnight Fellowship for Photography, a Minnesota State Arts Fellowship and others. Her work is in numerous private and public collections, among them the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Bibliotheque Nationale, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago. She has had over forty solo exhibitions and contributed work to more than sixty group exhibitions. She is represented by Thomas Barry Fine Arts, Minneapolis, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, Steve Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles, and Jane Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta.

Jamaica Kincaid was born on the island of St. John's, Antigua. Her highly praised books include the novels Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, and My Brother, the story collection At the Bottom of the River, and A Small Place, an essay about the island of Antigua. She lives with her family in Vermont.



9 x 12 96 pages
56 duotone images
March 1999
ISBN: 1-884167-01-2

An Umbrage Editions book distributed by Aperture