Michael Eastman and Virginia Lee Hunter, RULE Gallery, July 20, 2007

Michael Eastman and Virginia Lee Hunter, RULE Gallery, Opening Reception July 20th, 227 Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80203, Showing Friday July 20 - September 1, 2007, Open Tuesday-Saturday 11 to 5. Both Michael Eastman and Virginia Lee Hunter explore American culture through an investigation of landscape. Given that the current political landscape is stretched, perhaps uncomfortably, between traditionalism and multiculturalism, questions of individual identity and global American identity, Eastman and Hunter confront the paradoxes uniquely, using the camera lens to document rather than critique. “The American Landscape,” a series by Michael Eastman, captures breathtaking vistas including the open Wyoming skies, the Rocky Mountains, the Utah desert, and an old house in the expansive west. Michael Eastman mimics Ansel Adams’ awe inspiring scenes that are infinite in space and depth. Eastman’s photos contain rich colors and contrasting tones that are painterly, suggesting melancholy as well as rapture. There are exciting incongruities between the natural and the unreal. The green of the trees transforms into rolling, blanketed shapes. Dark purple clouds linger hauntingly in the skies. I did find the images to be somewhat stereotypical, picturesque American landscapes. Perhaps landscape photography produces redundancy of image, though in the case of Eastman, his photos are strangely piercing and evocative. “Carny: Americana on the Midway,” a project by Virginia Lee Hunter, commenced in 1996. The project centers on the marginalized: capturing the gypsy-like community to explore the American conception of “freak,” “criminal” and “lowlife.” These photos, in black and white and color consist of portraits of carnival employees and enthusiasts alike. Hunter captures the political and aesthetic position of “carny” as a corporeal part of the landscape, most poignantly in, “Carny’s Tattoo,” (C-Print, 1989). What is so urgent about Hunter’s work is that it portrays the two-sided aspect of an American carnival: nostalgic memories of kitsch and cotton candy; and the vibrant nomads who live and die against the backdrop of the carnival. Visit www.virginaleehunter.com for more information on the book and documentary film.