Nature and the Beast : Scarlett Hooft Graafland


I saw this image in one of the typical small squares on notcot and, at first, passed it by. I looked at it again, noting the curious red-orange of the igloo against the stark white of the background and admittedly was reminded of the character on Heroes who can freeze people into blocks of ice and then they shatter, their red insides are scattered blocks of ice. So, it seemed necessary to then click on the picture and see what that igloo was actually made of. Was is, in fact, something kind of gory?

Turns out: It’s orange lemonade. (!)

The photo is just one in Scarlett Hooft Graafland‘s series entitled “You Winter, let’s get divorced” (how can you not smile at that name?!). Ms. Graaftland spent four months hanging out with some Eskimos in northernmost Canada photographing nature and the culture that lives according to its whims. Nature rules pretty much everything there; something most of us are reminded of occasionally (snowstorms, hurricanes, etc), but generally take for granted. It turns out that this is one of Ms. Graaftland’s primary fascinations. I found reading her recent interview on “Don’t Panic” extremely interesting, as she explains:

“I am mostly interested how local people survive who live in such harsh circumstances – the Inuit in the extreme cold, endless winters on the one hand, and also these Bolivians who live in the Altiplano in the highlands of Bolivia. On the borders of the salt desert, it seems almost impossible to be able to make a living. I like to experience nature as such a strong force. We humans might think we ‘rule the world’ but at the end of the day we are just a tiny fraction.

I like to play with this idea in some of my photos, to place elements in the landscape and create odd relationships by combining the ‘man-made’ and the natural as a fragmented story. The fact that I grew up in The Netherlands where each piece of land is completely cultivated might be part of it. When you fly over the Dutch landscape it is totally divided in straight lines – nothing is left untouched. It makes you long for more ‘natural landscapes’.”

Personally, I love reading/hearing/seeing about people’s artistic processes (I loved seeing T. Murakami’s intense preparations for some of his pieces. The line drawings, the tiny color swatches, the little notes)((to me, it was almost more interesting)). And also about other cultures and ways of existing. So, it was lovely to get to read the back story on these pieces and see how the locals felt about it, reacted to it; what it was like to spend time in a world so extremely different from your own. Since I like writing and words and stories so much (and figuring out what makes people tick!), I find these sorts of things to be another great layer to the art. It can really help start/add to a discussion.

From her series in Bolivia, “Salt””

“The enormous white space invites almost like a drawing paper” – Scarlett Hooft Graafland

(Scarlett’s work will be showing at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London until March 29, 2009)

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