press release

George Eastman House invites you to envision Eden and paradise, through 133 contemporary photographs in the exhibition Picturing Eden, on view Jan. 28 through June 18, 2006. Picturing Eden features the work of 37 artists from six countries – including well-known artists Mike and Doug Starn, Adam Fuss, Ruud van Empel, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Sally Mann, as well as emerging artists such as Jo Whaley, Alec Soth, and Lori Nix.

"As a mythic theme, Eden resonates across time and cultures, and is charged with both political and environmental concerns," explained guest curator Deborah Klochko, a Rochester native now living and working in California. "Many of these photographs deal with the idea of the garden as a metaphor for good and evil, heaven and hell. Picturing Eden focuses on the state of humankind after Eden – paradise is no longer available to us, but from that moment on we have attempted to regain it."

The contemporary artists featured in Picturing Eden examine the many facets of paradise, from a place of contemplation and restoration to a site of loneliness and despair. The exhibition is organized in four sections: Paradise Lost, Paradise Reconstructed, Despairing of Paradise, and Paradise Anew. The photographs explore the development and changing styles of the garden and concepts of paradise. By looking at the notion of paradise and the garden through the photographic lens, Picturing Eden highlights original lost innocence, the ongoing significance of a humanistic, culturally charged environment, and its place in the history of art. Eden or paradise, a place of great or perfect happiness and satisfaction, is an ideal still sought today.

An accompanying catalog, published by Steidl, will feature photographs from the exhibition; an introduction by Dr. Anthony Bannon, director of George Eastman House; an essay by Klochko; and a transcribed conversation about paradise and the visual image. The conversation participants are Merry Foresta, director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative; Louise Mozingo, associate professor, Department of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley; and award-winning author Rebecca Solnit.

"Gardens engage the large values of rhetoric and science. Their terms of engagement summon idealized compositions of unity, balance, and sequence," wrote Dr. Bannon in the catalog introduction. "Gardens are equally vain and self-centered. Shaped by the bold will of their makers, they take on the romance of humankind‘s desires for dominance. In the name of free expression, gardens share the arrogance of other arts, and their tropes – the tectonics of sculpture and architecture, the chronology of storytelling, the harmonies of music and poetry, even the memories of photography."

Picturing Eden has been organized by George Eastman House and will tour internationally. The exhibition is supported by the Comer Foundation, Mondriaan Stichting Foundation, and Creative New Zealand.


Picturing Eden

mit Doug & Mike Starn, Adam Fuss, Ruud van Empel, Joel-Peter Witkin, Sally Mann, Jo Whaley, Alec Soth, Lori Nix, u.a.