Looking West

Crossing the Divide, 2013

Driving across the country the land unfolds, frame by frame like a movie.  The terrain shifts from green rolling hills and vast farmland into sagebrush meadows and grandiose mountain ranges. The view is constantly changing, as is my relationship to the land, its history, and my understanding of western expansion. The clouds roll and tumble, releasing torrential rains and delicate shafts of light among the turbulent sky. For me, each storm provokes fear and fascination with the landscape of America, and the veil of clouds is a blank canvas offering a space to daydream and project a new narrative.  The photographs in Looking West are a glimpse into a new story, and each image is a snapshot of what lies just beyond the horizon.

 

Inspired by both the landscape of the Midwest and my recent travels to Wyoming, I have reconstructed models of the land and photographed these dioramas.  By recreating the terrain I have the ability to portray the intricacies and specifics of each site, yet converge disparate facets of my experience. My photographs are an amalgamation of familiar places and wilderness yet to be explored; for they reference the awe-inspiring scenes of National Geographic and the iconic landscape photographs of the twentieth century, while dipping into the realm of magical realism.  The images are windows onto a world of wonderment and impossibility, laced with ominous threads.  They are an elaborate fiction, as they pay homage to the romanticized history of the country, while acknowledging that these vistas are fleeting and transitory, and perhaps an unreal expectation.  In the end the photographs depict a skewed utopia, for they are truly a cautionary tale.  These images offer a chance to examine both manifest destiny and the legacy of the environmental movement, and in turn review the Nation’s conflicted relationship to the land and my own struggle to redefine its representation.

© Lori Kella. All rights reserved

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