Valley Of The Sun
February 27, 2016 – March 26, 2016
VOLTA NY 16
CES Gallery is pleased to present Valley of the Sun, a solo presentation by the collaborative artist team Doty Glasco at VOLTA NY 16. Doty Glasco uses photography, collage, and sculpture to explore the relationship of photography to constructed notions of time, truth, nature, identity, and history, with a particular focus on the history of American landscape photography. Valley of the Sun utilizes a near complete archive of Arizona Highways magazine to explore the relationship between image-making, the landscape, and American cultural identity.
If grandiose early American landscape paintings were the original advertisements for America that encouraged many to conquer their way west, then Arizona Highways is its post-war equivalent, re-branding the same individualistic nationalism for the atomic age of family road trips. Arizona Highways, a bureaucratic report on road infrastructure turned pseudo-historical travel guide has evolved into a culture-travel magazine. Historically it featured high quality landscape photography, including the work of artists like Ansel Adams, embedded within a reification of Americanness.
The American West becomes a wonderland of beautiful, but digestible landscapes envisioned as an easily accessible theme park of sights to see. Arizona is a stand in for a mythical notion of the West, embodying an identity that includes remnants of settler mentality: the land is there for your pleasure, a natural resource that you can use to enhance your wealth or contemporary self-image. This can be seen in anthropological scrolls of social media networks through replicas of famous views that were first published in Arizona Highways. This imagery perpetuates desire, an unattainable state of being, the aestheticization of nature, and the American Dream. In working with this archive Doty Glasco asks the question: how is myth made?
On a year-long research trek across the country, Doty Glasco re-photographed many of the same iconic views, scavenged for artifacts, and built their extensive Arizona Highways archive. The physical exertion of this journey is mirrored in Doty Glasco’s studio practice within their conceptual and physical approach to photography. Specific pages from the archive are scanned like negatives, resulting in a double exposure that overlaps iconic landscapes. This doubling reverberates the psychological echoes of what these icons represent, allowing the viewer to contemplate the complexity of how these images function within the context of Arizona Highways as a myth building vehicle.
In Valley of the Sun, photographs become three dimensional, stretched and floating in space or hanging free, flag-like with light filtering through landscapes, referencing painting and Americana. A freestanding doorway and two window sculptures comment on the constructed American dream, turning the booth into a house-like structure. Antiqued mirrors within these sculptures disorient the viewer and reference the mechanism of a camera. These layered landscapes, metaphorically conveying heaviness, stability, and geologic time, are transgressively printed onto silk, giving them a ghostly and fragile quality. Doty Glasco uses silk’s formal properties as a destabilizing lens to consider the image’s original context, allowing the viewer to contemplate the process of image-making and the constructs of photography.
While combing through their archive, Doty Glasco categorized the tourist viewpoints, grouping all visually similar depictions. These typologies can be viewed as re-performances of photographs taken by different photographers over half a century – any variations of composition, color, or form reveal characteristics of individuality, thus are clues to deconstructing myth. Doty Glasco’s typology grid allows the viewer to unpack aesthetic strategies employed by Arizona Highways and the history of landscape photography.
Doty Glasco’s work disrupts the mythic quality of the archived images and reclaims landscape photography as a powerful aesthetic tool for critical investigations of larger power structures.