Artist Talk with Joel SternfeldThursday, October 30, 2008
Joel Sternfeld. "September 7, 2007". From his Oxbow Archive, 2008.
Joel Sternfeld's impressive new large-scale photographs, "Oxbow Archive", document weather and atmospheric effects in a meadow in Northampton at the Oxbow of the Connecticut River, over the course of a cycle of seasons.
Almost 200 years after Thomas Cole completed his iconic painting "View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow)", Joel Sternfeld walked into the field depicted in the lower right corner of Cole's painting and began making almost daily photographs. Sternfeld's quietly haunting new work represents a break with painterly notions of the Picturesque and the Sublime. His tract is a flat, unremarkable corn and potato field, signaling a conceptual stance away from previous depictions of nature. When Thomas Cole painted the "Oxbow" he meant it to be a warning about "progress" in the form of clearing of wilderness for farms and factories. Climate change today may prove Cole's concerns valid -- the seasons may never manifest themselves the same way in this field again.
Following Sternfeld's previous works -- "On this Site", 'sweet Earth", "Experimental Utopias in America", and "When it Changed" -- "Oxbow Archive" examines a hidden, culturally resonant patch of earth.
8 of his 77 photographs from this landmark series are on view at the University Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the exhibition "Of People and Places". Joel Sternfeld's new book "Oxbow Archive" is available for sale at the Gallery.