Sara Belleau: Holy Land
Today’s submission is by Sara Belleau, a Minneapolis based photographer. She graduated with her BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1983, and an MFA from Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1987. While looking through Sara’s work, the incorporation of set design was an interesting alternative to today’s use of digital manipulation. I appreciate the handmade details that went into each photograph, which reminded me of large-scale dioramas. The use of tableau is painterly, and for me provides strength in singular narratives.
Sara’s work plays with revisiting old religious text and mashing it into a contemporary mindset. Her photographs are seemingly fun yet hold some darkness. They embrace the use of religious symbolism while putting up an illustrative façade.
As an American artist, I am both the product and chronicler of that uniquely American urge to find, name or create both our individual and collective potential. Who we are and who we want to become is a never ending source of frustration and fascination for me. Although I am not a religious person, between 2006 and 2010 I called upon the ancient stories of the Torah, Qur’an and Old Testament and re-imagined them in an American, vernacular context. The series, titled Holy Land, includes twenty photographs created with painted backgrounds and constructed sets made in the basement of my Minneapolis home. While it may be surprising to see these stories brought to life in constructed prairies and farm fields, it brings them an unexpected sense of familiarity and possibility. These ancient Jewish, Muslim and Christian texts share many of the same stories and at a time in our history when we are at war in the Middle East over real estate, oil, and values the recognition of how much we hold in common is a profound source for evaluation and reflection. How much has our civilization grown and changed in the six thousand years recorded in these books? How much should we hold on to or reject? Who is divine? What is still sacred? It has been a huge challenge to reconsider these ancient stories and juxtapose them against today’s psycho-social-political present. In doing so I have found that the children of Abraham continue to question, transform and illuminate the world we live in.
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