Phone Interview with Dana Fritz, 29th October 2014— Jacquelyn Delin
JD: Thank you so for your contribution Terraria Giganitica: the World under Glass to the Texas Tech SRO Gallery. It has been an amazing experience to become more acquainted with your work.
I have several questions for you which I am quite anxious to ask.
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I am an artist, a Midwesterner, and a professor. My life and work are enriched and informed by travel and research, particularly in Japan where I have taught a study abroad course since 2010.
Mop, Biosphere 2,
2008, Archival Pigment Print, 12 x 18 inches
Q: What was your early life like? If possible, how did this come to affect your artistic intents?
A: I’m from suburban Kansas City; I am a real suburban kid. As a result, I only really had access to neighborhood parks and lawns. When I met my husband, I thought it was refreshing that he was a “free range” child, able to explore in the woods, really wherever.
Q: Who was your inspiration to pursue photography?
A: My family did not contain any artists, but my mom was incredibly creative. She was an “obsessive documentarian,” as a result I hated having my picture taken. Cameras became common to me and present as a tool during my early life.
Q: Why did you choose to work in color in this series versus black and white as you did in Garden Views?
A:It seemed like a natural progression to move to color. Within Garden Views, I visited various 19th century glasshouses. I was interested in presenting the structures and forms of the manicured gardens and I could emphasize those more in monochrome. I visited various 19th century glasshouses in the formal gardens I photographed and they led me to my next project.
In Terraria Gigantica, I wanted to explore what a contemporary version of these glasshouses might be.I wanted to show as much information and clarity as possible and color allows for a larger consideration of the details. It is important to me that all of the Terraria Gigantica photographs are horizontally composed as a reference to landscape.
Q: How, if possible, did your purpose of Terraria Gigantica change?
A: Initially, my interest was in possibly documenting the many people coming to these indoor landscapes. I found it very odd, for instance, that Biosphere 2 was the largest tourist attraction in the state of Arizona, even more so than the Grand Canyon. My goal was to explore the peculiarity of the popular interest in and hyperreality of these facilities.
Exterior Maintenance, Eden Project,
2009, Archival Pigment Print, 12 x 18 inches
Q: What do you hope to come from the viewer’s experience with Terraria Gigantica?
A: I hope viewers find the work engaging, beautiful in some way, humorous possibly. Some viewers even find the photographs incredibly sad, which is very interesting to me. It causes people to think about really big questions- How should we behave? How should we think about the natural world? What kind of consequences do our actions have?
Painted Leaves and Dripping Moss, Lied Jungle, 2007, Archival Pigment Print, 12 x 18 inches
Q: In terms of humans’ relationship with nature, would you argue that humans are enhancing nature for their enjoyment and scientific endeavors? Or rather, that they are debasing the “naturalness” of nature by manipulating it?
A: I am obsessed with this idea! These questions drive my work, all of my work. When I first conceived of Terraria Gigantica, I had a vague and simplistic idea that these places were ridiculous—human follies. When I traveled to the sites, I realized much more goes on there. My critical stance, which was somewhat against these places, was almost reversed. Through process and research about wilderness and simulation, I realized that I thought of “wilderness” as the standard for nature. But, that view is problematic when wilderness cannot contain people because we are nature.
So, yes, we are manipulating nature. Instead of asking what is nature and what is not, a better question might be: What kind of nature do you want? How will you behave to make it so? You must remember that you can’t go back, your decisions and behavior effect nature indefinitely. (These ideas are prevalent in Michiel Schwarz’s essay “Nature So-Called”)
Corner Outlet, Lied Jungle, 2010, Archival Pigment Print, 12 x 18 inches
Q: Tell me about your current project, Views Removed.
A: The project began with my interest in Japanese ink painting. My work, using equivocal space, alludes to these earlier models. Also, this project probes the idea of nature carefully tended by humans. I have been researching many Eastern sources about the cleaning and maintenance of gardens. Rather than human manipulating nature, the relationship is seen as a “natural” process, a constant conversation between living entities. Thus far, it has been an amazing, mind-expanding journey. I am fascinated with comparing my (native) western culture to eastern philosophies and art. This research and experience influences my work and helps me to understand my western biases.
Q: You are currently a Professor of Photography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As an art educator, a mentor, how do you advise students interested in photography?
A: I hope I teach by example. My advice to students is to be curious, to ask questions, to explore and travel if possible. Find ways to make work about what moves you, even if it is not what everyone else is doing. Take time to reflect, research, and push yourself. Find a mentor for guidance through art and even life outside of art. Go experience art in person because books and the internet mostly contain only representations of the actual work.
JD: Dana, those are all of the questions I have! Thank you very much for your time and for your work in the field; it really is quite theoretical and tantalizing!
To learn more about Dana Fritz photography, visit her website: http://www.danafritz.com/