Earth Week: Sarah Knobel: Synthetic Nature
The bodies of work that I will be sharing during Earth Week are linked by this thematic lens: making the often-invisible nature of the global climate and the ecological crisis more visible using conceptual, lens-based art techniques. Each body of work speaks to a different aspect of the climate and ecological crisis: loss of place; waste; sea level rise, plastic pollution, industrial meat production, desertification, and fire. These bodies of work seek to uncover the hidden interdependence of both social and natural systems and challenge us to re-examine our relationships with each other and this planet.
Sarah Knobel is a photographer, video and installation artist that works with everyday items to find new ways to identify our relationship with ideas of the natural, artificial, beautiful and repulsive. Her work has been featured in exhibitions nationally and internationally, which includes Miami, Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Washington DC, Germany, Belgium, Korea and Greece. Sarah holds an MFA in Photography from the Design Architecture Art and Planning Program at the University of Cincinnati and a BFA in Studio Art from Texas State University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
Follow Sarah Knobel on Instagram: @sknobel
Synthetic Nature II starts with my preoccupation with everyday consumption and how the natural and artificial worlds can collide. I focus on the mundane waste of my family’s consumption, mainly plastic packaging, whose sole purpose is to protect an item until it comes into our home. I question what the shapes now symbolize and their existence beyond meager utilization. But I also take a closer look at the beauty in their distinctive form once their intended purpose of protection is complete. Placing these items in relationship with organically mutable materials, I experiment with how these plastic materials can evolve and have new relationships with nature.
Synthetic Nature I was about creating landscapes that, when printed large, would feel intentionally overwhelming. But, I wanted to create a less defined state for this series. Consciously, I focus on repetition and the overlapping variations of each item suspended in time. The results become defined as artifacts but also ambiguous structures that mimic spectacles of nature.
I use photography to create opposing illusions that are simultaneously optimistic and hostile, beautiful but repulsive. Brightly saturated colors in the photographs allure but also alert of each object’s toxic nature. I use this process to speculate on what the future might bring, and what potential traces will be left behind. -Sarah Knobel
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