Culture / Art Republik

Landscapes in Passing – On the Road

Landscapes in Passing – Photographs by Steve Fitch, Robbert Flick and Elaine Mayes and their representation of the American landscape

Dec 27, 2013 | By Staff Writer

The exhibition, Landscapes in Passing, presents the work of three artists, Steve Fitch, Robbert Flick and Elaine Mayes and their representation of the American landscape. Using different approaches with their photography, all of the works explore the impact of expanding civilization on the natural world. In contrast to 19th century artists who mainly focused on the views of the unspoiled wilderness, Fitch, Flick and Mayes openly acknowledge the human presence in their photographs which encourages the audience to think of the changing landscape and our impact on it.

The artworks in the installation were selected by curator Lisa Hostetler and she hopes this exhibit will challenge the conventional way of seeing America. It is no longer the 19th century portrayal of the pure untouched wilderness, but in portraits of things like flashing motel signs sitting against the backdrop of mountain ranges. The photographs in this exhibition will challenge and update the traditional calm portrayal of the American landscape from the 19th century.

One of the three artists, Elaine Mayes, is a well accomplished photographer and photography educator who has influenced generations of photographers. Mayes has taught both photography and film in the University of Minnesota, Hampshire College and others.

The earliest series in the exhibition, Elaine Mayes’ Autolandscapes (1971), captures the view from a car window every time the landscape changed from California to Massachusetts. She wanted to capture her moving through space and the changes of landscape from urban to rural to somewhere in between and capture a constantly moving and changing America.


In Autolandscape, Colorado (1971), the shadow of Elaine Mayes’ car echoes the curvature of a hill in the distance. Image courtesy of American Art Museum

The second artist, Fitch, captures the typical sights and attractions that define roadside America. From his series Diesels and Dinosaurs (1976), his images focus exclusively on the American West and were taken in Los Angeles in 1980 as he traversed the streets. The photographs show a collision between the prehistoric and the modern, the mythic and the mass-produced: A kitschy dinosaur looming over a gas station.


Steve Fitch’s Gas station, Highway 40, Jensen, Utah (1971) depicts the American West as an eclectic, alien environment. Image courtesy of American Art Museum

In Robbert Flick’s Sequential Views (1980), Flick takes photos of particular geographic or temporal intervals. For example, Flick would look one way, take a picture, look the opposite way, take a picture, moved forward, took a picture and so on.

While all three artists share “everyday America” as their subject, their styles and techniques are unique, reflecting their own personal experience as they encounter the American landscape. Mayes focused on changing scenery on the interstate highway, Fitch on the culture of roadside attractions and Flick on the segmented way we experience a city. The exhibit shows how each individual artist observes reality and what they have to say about it. Curator Hostetler said she hopes the exhibit will make people more conscious of how they move through the world and what they are missing as they pass it. The exhibit is opened now till 23 February 2014 at the American Art museum.

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