Ellen Brooks’ Photographs: Nature as Artifice

May 9 through June 11, 1993

New York artist Ellen Brooks earned national acclaim in 1983 when her photographs of carefully arranged sculptureal tableux were introduced in the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial Exhibition. At that time, Brooks was using photography as a means of examining the complexities of domestic life. Her approach was to construct psychodramas from tiny toy figures and props, and then photograph them. In the mid-1980s, Brooks began an examination of a new subject - the relationship between nature and culture. Saddened to some extent by human manipulation of nature, Brooks has created a series of 20 large-scale photographic constructions that focuses on examples of "artificial nature." The artist’s innovative procedure involves photographing found images of formal gardens, bonsai trees, golf courses, fish tanks, waterfalls, fireworks, and most recently , human bodies shown in contrived poses. Almost all of Brook's images of the past six years are appropriated from books and magazines. In order to remove a subject from its point of origin in nature, Brooks rephotographs each through a screen until it appears at once seductive, generalized, and deliberately contrived. Through a process of transformation, the artist calls attention to society's manipulation and reordering of nature, thereby raising important ecological questions