Like the gardens which she photographs, Geesaman’s pictures are a telling metaphor for our lives as social creatures: a compound of nature and artifice in which pleasure itself becomes an instrument of control.
-Chris Waddington, Art In America, October 1990
… And the garden is both a plan and an act of faith, and, as such, combines faith and reason, our greatest possibilities, thus becoming an archetypal resolution of predicament.
-Donald Geesaman, ORION, Summer 1994
Reminiscent of images produced by nineteenth century travel photographers, such as Francis Frith, the photographs of Lynn Geesaman display solitary, curious worlds. Geesaman accentuates the formal compositions of the places that she photographs; English gardens, canals and roadsides in Belgium, and Italian hillside villages. Her photographs add monumentality and solidity to the landscape making the ingredients melt into abstraction as value and shape take on increased significance. This is further increased by her printing method that results in a shadowy glow that permeates the photographs. The overall effect supports Geesaman’s Romantic notion that there is a reality beyond the empirical.
Her photographs serve as evidence of humanities attempt to order the natural world as the garden is an example of the wild confined for the pleasure of its visitors. By photographing formal landscapes that have been defined as “rarefied culture” Geesaman is questioning man’s authority over nature along with our concepts of beauty.
Geesaman has exhibited in several museum exhibitions; Earthly Delights: Garden Imagery in Contemporary Art at The Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Contemporary Landscapes: Selections from the Permanent Collection at the Walker Art Center, and Reclaiming Paradise: American Women Photograph the Land at the Tweed Museum of Art.Her most recent publication, Gardenscapes, with text by Verlyn Klinkenborg, presents her first color images.
“Each of these color images is a leap of faith, for each one reflects the artist’s assurance that she has got it right, right not only for her own eye but also for the viewer’s eye as well. Shift the colors too far and they spill over into an almost abstract realm . . . Geesaman shows us what we see, so to speak, only in our peripheral vision, the colors that lie just past the ones we usually take in.”
Here, Lynn Geesaman continues to explore cultivated landscapes, with their cloudless, timeless skies and languorous beauty. For almost twenty years, she has photographed fertile orchards and fields as well as the elaborately designed gardens and manicured walkways of a variety of parks, estates, and Chateaux in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and the United States. Her poetic vision, rendered in an array of vibrant, impressionistic hues, generates a mesmerizing tension that emerges from a contemplation of these natural settings and their altered states.
Lynn Geesaman’s images of elaborate topiary gardens, canals, and dramatic landscapes employ unusual diffusion techniques that emphasize an imaginative and psychological interpretation of nature.
Born in Cleveland in 1938, Geesaman was introduced to photography while studying physics at Wellesley College. An interest in gardens led to research, travel and photography in England, France, Belgium, Italy and Germany. Among the many honors she has received are the Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship and the Arts Midwest/NEA Regional Visual Arts Fellowship Award and a Jerome Foundation award in 1989. Geesaman’s monograph, Poetics of Place, was published by Umbrage Editions in 1998. Her work is represented in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Biblioteque National in Paris, and among many private collections.
Poetics of Place: Lynn Geesaman
Gardenscapes: Photographs by Lynn Geesaman
Hazy Lights and Shadows