Photography exhibition manipulates organic beauty into unconventional collages

If you Google the phrases “crashing waves” or “blossoming tree,” what images would surface and why? Photographer Anastasia Samoylova presents such questions in her exhibit “Landscape Sublime,” which opened on Nov. 2 at the Lockhart Gallery on Main Street. Originally from Moscow, Samoylova is now based in the United States, where she can use digital art and photography to explore such ideas as “environmentalism, consumerism and the picturesque.” This particular exhibit seeks to examine landscape photography in widely circulated stock and public domain photographs that are found in online image libraries. Furthermore, Samoylova displays how these two types of photographs display the cultural concepts of nature, the environment and beauty in her exhibit.

So what does the Internet tell us natural beauty looks like? The photos you would find are idealized, as they are meant to depict the conventional notion of perfect “beauty” found in nature. Samoylova uses these idealistic pictures and creates something new, consequently challenging conventional beauty in this age where nature can be viewed from a screen.

She takes these photos—which any of us could easily find online—and distorts them, folds them and flips them. She combines the altered images with other digitally produced textures and color blocks, so it is as if the viewer is looking through a distorted kaleidoscope.

“Blossoming Trees” utilizes several stock images of what look like cherry blossom trees, only they’re bent and distorted—as if they’ve been reflected in a funhouse mirror. The images are then grouped together to seem like pages of a book or petals of an actual cherry blossom. The tableau is interspersed with geometric areas of green, yellow and other bright spring colors.

This piece takes those original, predictable and ideal stock photos of nature and presents the beauty of their subject in a way that isn’t exactly natural. The resulting image is made by the screen and for the screen, but still displays the organic beauty of nature, as well.

Another notable piece in the collection is “Forests,” which uses light in a particularly engaging way. This work—and the collection as a whole—follows a similar pattern as “Blossoming Trees,” except with the addition of different computer-generated blocks of color. These forest images, however, have more of a unique fractured quality. There are slits cut into the forest images, which give off an effect similar to rays of light that shine through the leaves and trees of an actual forest.

The “Landscape Sublime” collection takes up most of the gallery space, but there are also a few pieces from the Geneseo Permanent Collection displayed by the entrance of the exhibit. These pieces follow Samoylova’s theme of nature, but starkly contrast her modern images. These works are all done in many different media; one is a photograph of a tree on a hillside lightly dusted with snow and another is a small watercolor painting of thin tree trunks.

All of the pieces from the Permanent Collection, however, have a very gray or muted color palate, as opposed to Samoylova’s bright splashes of color. The Permanent Collection’s work provides an aesthetically different perspective on nature, but also complements Samoylova’s artistic message by highlighting those differences.

The Lockhart Gallery has been making an effort to recruit younger, more modern and contemporary artists for the space. Samoylova, who is only 32, is a great addition to the gallery’s record, as her work has received international success.

Her ideas give a fresh and thought-provoking interpretation of landscape, how it is represented in this modern age of technology and how we interpret its beauty.