Friday, June 15, 2012

Tamatha Perlman Explores the Psychology of the Guilded Cage in Areca Roe's work

Areca Roe is a photographer of interiors, a careful accountant of creature comforts. “Habitat” is a study of the spaces constructed for animals to live in and to bring us closer to “nature.” She captures the places where the enclosure exposes itself to the animals for what they really are. Roe’s dispassionate eye allows the viewer’s assumptions to slowly dissolve as their eye recognizes the fabricated murals and fake trees. The contrast between the real and the unreal, natural and unnatural creates a complex layers of experience that quietly inserts questions about the lives of the captive animals into the viewer’s mind.

Many of the photographs have a painterly quality. The interplay of light on the plexi and glass barriers soften the surface of the enclosures, creating a timeless, frozen quality.  The window in the monkey house of Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois #2  has fogged over  and its inhabitants have swiped smears in the drippy condensation, obscuring the habitat and creating a flat abstract surface with gestural brush strokes. The atmospheric light in Como Zoo, St. Paul, Minnesota, #2 gives the painted backdrop the appearance of a Hudson School landscape with the surreal addition of penguins. In About Looking, John Berger states, “In principle, each cage is a frame around the animal inside it...They [Visitors] proceed from cage to cage, not unlike visitors in an art gallery who stop in front of one painting and move on to the next one after next.”  

 Roe, who has an undergraduate degree in biology (with a concentration in ecology) is able to effortlessly explore the myriad levels of illusion involved in creating a habitat for animals that meets the needs of the humans who want to look at them. Included in the exhibit are plastic toys used to entertain the polar bears.  Both are chewed and mangled by their powerful claws. They are peculiar objects. Why do polar bears need a sled? What would they have used in nature? Roe’s photographs expose our need for zoos and a controlled interaction with the wild. “I just want people to think about it a little,” she says. “I want them to come to their own conclusions.”

Areca Roe graduated from the University of Minnesota with a MFA in 2011 and currently lives and works in Minneapolis. Recently Roe completed an artist in residency at the Bell Museum and a solo exhibition at the Notre Dame University Department of Art. She has exhibited throughout the Midwest, as well as internationally in both Hungary and Finland. Roe has also received several grants and fellowships in support of her work including a 2012 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant.

Areca's work will be up until July 7th at Soo Visual Arts Center.

And more of Areca Roe's work HERE

Article by Tamatha Perlman. 

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