Luther Smith
William Campbell Contemporary Art, viagra Fort Worth
January 14–February 11, 2012

 

We may not take the time to notice, but there are patches of wilderness that exist quietly between our expanding developments and highways. Luther Smith’s collection of photographs “Where I Live” reveals these natural oases within a sprawling suburban landscape that seems to grow larger every day. Most of the works within “Where I Live” feature landscapes near Smith’s Fort Worth home. The large photographs provide a virtual tour of some wild spaces that we have overlooked.

The works within “Where I Live” are above all rich with texture and color. With his large format camera, Smith is able to capture the intricate web of vines, leaves and branches that remain tangled in close proximity to manicured apartment complex lawns. In the work “Off North Tarrant Parkway” foliage completely fills the frame. Wild sunflowers mingle with grasses and vines. The subtle blurring of flowers and leaves indicates their movement in the wind. Though photographic, the wandering forms and speckles of color within these works brings to mind the turbulent marks of abstract expressionism. In “Creek, ParkGlen” the bent limbs of a tree hang over beautifully still water. Smith shows an affinity for these lushly overgrown environments, but also acknowledges their limits.

While many of Smith’s compositions focus on the natural world, the man-made world inches its way onto its edges. The photograph “Pool, North Tarrant Parkway” depicts another idyllic scene — so idyllic that one might miss the housing development creeping in on the horizon. Because they are so out of place in the traditional and pastoral landscape, these man-made structures often become an odd focal point of the image. In the work “Off North Beach Street” a beautiful field stretches into the distance. It might take a few minutes to see the hidden telephone pole and patch of road in this scene, but once noticed it changes the feeling of the work. The presence of man-made elements within some of the photographs is slightly disconcerting. The houses appear as unwelcome visitors, threatening an otherwise harmonious space.

As viewers of “Where I Live,” we can imagine that this natural scene continues beyond the picture frame, but it doesn’t. In the realm of landscape photography there are plenty of depictions of pristine and untouched nature. There is a beauty in the authenticity of Smith’s photographs. These images are not a fantasy of a vast wilderness, but the reality of a limited one.

— KASTEN SEARLES