Anna Beeke (US): Sylvania
Gallery offline – updating soon
Across cultures and centuries, the forest has occupied a unique place in our collective imagination. Good and evil, chaos and peace, beauty and terror: these fundamental oppositions of the forest’s liminal landscape are a metaphor for the human experience. It is no surprise, then, that myth and history are rich with stories of man venturing beyond the structured limits of civilization and into chaotic labyrinth of the woods. Following this tradition, I too went into the woods in search of adventure, transcendence, the unknown, and came back with a body of photographic work called Sylvania.
Sylvania is a composite “forest-land” of photographs comprising scenes from various and sundry American woodlands. Through images of both real and depicted nature, Sylvania examines the differing characteristics of these woods while also seeking the Forest Universal rooted in them all, exploring the physical presence of the forest in the contemporary world as well as its metaphoric presence in our collective imagination.
In myth, forests are often seen as the ultimate life source, related as they are to so many of man’s genesis stories, and the origins of Sylvania are actually very tied to my personal origins. Though I was born and raised in Washington, DC, I was conceived in Washington State—on the heavily forested San Juan Islands. Having never been to the Pacific Northwest, I felt a compulsion to go to the place where I began life and the conviction that if I did I would surely find something there. What I found was the forest, and an intense sense of contentment and enchantment that seemed almost foreign to me and harkened back to a more childish or primitive capacity to indulge the imagination. I began photographing to capture the essence of this experience, and over time the project grew from a concentrated study of the ethereal woods of the Pacific Northwest into a broader survey of forests across the country – from Washington and Oregon to Vermont to Louisiana, and many places in between.
Though the relationship between man/nature and civilization/wilderness constitutes an ancient dialogue, it is a particularly important topic right now. Industry and technology, the linchpins of the Anthropocentric conception of progress, are coming under more scrutiny by green activists and natural preservationists in time when the question of global warming and the desertification of our planet loom large as a threat in the minds of so many. Sylvania’s plea for the consideration of our forests, however, comes through images that seek to invoke appreciation of the magic and necessity of our woodlands.