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Sandy Skoglund and the Evocativeness of Photography

  • Sandy Skoglund - The Cocktail Party, 1992
January 2, 2019
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

The undisputed pioneer of staged photography, Sandy Skoglund creates the directorial tableau work which explores people’s subconscious fears, while questioning the perception of reality. Working since the 1970s, she has created a wonderful and perturbing world, where enchantment and restlessness, daily life and fairy-tale aspects cohabit harmoniously.

CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia in Turin will host the first retrospective show by this acclaimed American artist. Titled Sandy Skoglund. Vision Ibride, the exhibition brings together works ranging from her debut projects in the early 1970s right up to the still unpublished Winter, which Skoglund has been working on for more than ten years. This photograph, which serves as the fulcrum of the display, will be accompanied by a number of sculptures created for the installation from which it was taken.

Revenge of the goldfish, 1981
Sandy Skoglund – Revenge of the goldfish, 1981. Color photograph, 68.75 x 87.5 cm. Courtesy Pacicontemporary gallery (Brescia – Porto Cervo, IT)

The Practice of Sandy Skoglund

To produce imagery which appears suspended between dreams and reality, Sandy Skoglund constructs an extremely complex set imbued with various handmade sculptures and human characters, achieving the idea of a total work of art. In this way, her works are at once installative, sculptural and photographic. The artist herself explains:

I believe there exists a contrast between the aspect of imagination – the animals are like cartoons or fantasies – and reality. Since we, as human beings, consider ourselves the main form of consciousness in nature, I chose to fill my images with animals in order to introduce this alternative consciousness into our experience.

The peculiarity of her visual path will be highlighted in the Turin show, where several sculptures reference photographs and vice versa.

Fox Games, 1989
Sandy Skoglund – Fox Games, 1989. Color photograph, 115.6 x 157.5 cm. Courtesy Pacicontemporary gallery (Brescia – Porto Cervo, IT)

Exhibition Highlights

Following the artist’s path through more than thirty works, the show will bring together some of the earliest photographic series from the 1970s right up to the great compositions of the early 1980s, which were to lead her to international fame, such as the visionary Radioactive Cats (1980) and the Revenge of the Goldfish (1981).

Other highlights include the twenty shots from the series True Fiction Two, produced between 1986 and 2005, the spectacular compositions Fox Games (1989) and The Green House (1990), the ballad of Shimmering Madness (1998) and the visionary picnic of Raining Popcorn (2001), as well as the most recent works, such as Fresh Hybrid (2008) and the previously unseen Winter (2018).

As Skoglund explains, “to resist the snapshot,” the work Winter “moves at the speed of a glacier.”

Each fragment of Winter has been chosen to express the primal fear of human dependence on nature and on ourselves. We are not alone, and our situation is endlessly precarious.

  Editors’ Tip: Sandy Skoglund by Linda Muehlig

This book is a retrospective of Sandy Skoglund’s work, published to accompany a touring exhibition from March 1998, at Smith College (Skoglund’s alma mater) and then, successively over a two-year period, in Ohio (Cincinnati and Toledo), South Carolina (Columbia) and Florida (Jacksonville). Some of the works included in the book were created especially for the exhibition. Setting Skoglund’s work in context are an interview with her, and three essays.

Sandy Skoglund Exhibition at CAMERA

The exhibition Sandy Skoglund. Visioni Ibride will be on view at CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia in Turin from January 24th until March 23rd, 2019.

Curated by Germano Celant, it will be accompanied by a monographic volume published by Silvana Editoriale, also in this case the first of its kind, edited by Germano Celant, in which the entire career of the artist is reconstructed through the interweaving of her biography and her professional progress, documented by the reproduction of all her works, accompanied by critical notes and a wide-ranging bibliography.

Featured image: Sandy Skoglund – The Cocktail Party, 1992. Color photograph, 120 x 162.5 cm. Courtesy of Paci contemporary gallery (Brescia – Porto Cervo, IT).