“The Passage of Our Distraction,” New Orleans Art Review

By Marian S. McLellan via neworleansartreview.org




“Intentional Landscapes”
Arthur Roger Gallery


ARTISTS ARE ALWAYS willing to share the bounty of the view in ways that forever reinforce and redirect our forever-wandering gaze, thus narrowing the passage of our distraction. Perhaps in an effort to jar us into looking more closely at the aftermath of progress, Canadian Edward Burtynsky presents a series of color photographs collectively titled “Intentional Landscapes” at Arthur Roger Gallery that defy orientation and require detailed titles to let us know just where and what we are looking at in the picture window images. As it happens, the isolated scenes, often shot from airplanes, mountaintops and drones, describe topography transformed by mankind’s quest for sustainability. Says Burtynsky, “Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction.” Ain’t that the truth.

Paradoxically, it is the scabs of our invention that permit Burtynsky to record the bitter fruits of our comfort. From afar, or to use the term of late, from a “remote” location, we often take offense at the mistreatment of unknown recipients, ignorant that we may in fact play a key role in the crime. Nonetheless, using the tools of our potential demise, Burtynsky beguiles with intriguingly disturbing views shot from on high. Oil Spill #16, Mississippi Delta, Gulf of Mexico, USA 2010 evokes Yves Tanguy’s distilled landscapes, soothing us with luxurious greens and browns from the spill while the tan colored Navajo Reservation/Suburb, Phoenix, AZ, USA 2011 contrasts the stark reservation against a congested suburb separated only by a highway. All who’ve boarded the Coast Starlight from Oregon to California know firsthand that the majesty of Mount Shasta leaves no reason to seek the rewards of heaven. But Burtynsky’s Shasta Lake Reservoir, Northern, CA, USA 2009 depicts a faint view of the mountain foreshadowed by tufts of trees skirted with agate-colored banks that seem to float in motionless water.