On the cover: the constructed photographs of James Casebere | December 2021 | Visual Arts | Hudson Valley

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  • Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #12, James Casebere, 2011

At first glance, the bright palette and plastic foliage of by James Casebere Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #12, suggests an idealized, almost Lego-like world, but with fires about to consume country homes while windmills stand still. What initially seems playful and innocent is actually a scathing commentary on the death of the American dream, the net result of capitalism, and impending doom. “I was trying to respond to the anxiety about the future generated by the twin crises of the Great Recession, the consequences of global warming and the absurdity of our oil-based economy,” says Casebere. Made in 2011, Landscape is a prescient and harrowing look at our current reality ten years ago.

Casebere has been making and photographing models since 1975, his pioneering work predating what has come to be called constructed photography. Originally, he was filming on film, then he switched to digital. For this work he incorporated more detail than previous projects and adopted model-making materials, constructing a large landscape with plaster, chicken wire and cheesecloth covered in grasses and foliage for train enthusiasts. miniatures.

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A shot of Falling House with Fire (for MK), a 2012 work by James Casebere that uses the same fire bar to simulate flames as in the cover image.

  • A shot of Falling House with Fire (for MK), a 2012 work by James Casebere that uses the same fire bar to simulate flames as in the cover image.

“The pandemic has reinforced my desire to affect people’s lives more directly and leave behind the illusion,” he says. “Architectural photography is never the same thing as the thing itself, it is often an abstraction or an idealization. Discovering the emotional architecture of Luis Barragan and Mathias Goeritz reinforced my desire to create rather than simply invoke feelings of refuge, solace, solitude, security and spirituality.

As a multimedia artist, Casebere says he has always thought more in three dimensions than in two, having to create an object first. “When taking a picture of a construction, many other issues come into play: there is the question of time, the before and after, the control of light and its illusions, the emotional impact and the reproducibility . There is also the drama of filming. With the digital revolution, our relationship to photography has changed, and we take for granted the created lie.

Casebere has had a studio in Columbia County for the past six years. (His large-scale installation, Solo Pavilion for Two or Three, which was unveiled at PS21 in Chatham in May, will be on display until 2022.) Like many other artists, he came north to escape and recharge. “Working here has changed my experience with post-pandemic gatherings and arts events,” he says. “There is a shared desire to engage in meaningful dialogue that is always at hand, even if hidden.”