- The Hudson Valley: From Mannahatta to Kaaterskill
Do you own your view? Not your point of view, but the view from your window, your office, your backyard — can you possess it? Can you disregard humanity’s impact on what you see? Exploring these ideas, photographer Susan Wides has spent the last several years exploring the Hudson Valley from its southernmost region, Manhattan, north to Westchester County, and then to the Catskills in more than 40 large-scale photographs on view at the Museum. In The Hudson Valley, From Mannahatta to Kaaterskill, Susan Wides, using camera focus and scale, shows us how fallible our perceptions can be. Our seeing can distort but may also define the environments that we make and in which we live. Some of her works carry the message of environmental stewarding across the Hudson Valley, where man and nature are juxtaposed and acknowledged, if not always accepted.The Hudson Valley: From Mannahatta to Kaaterskill was curated by the Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs Bartholomew F. Bland, and it is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with essays by Bland and Adjunct Curator of History Dr. Roger Panetta, an expert on the Hudson Valley region, as well as insights by Susan Wides who describes the circumstances related to capturing her photographs
Wides’ urban works frequently favor a tilted angle, an apt visual metaphor for city life’s ability to throw its inhabitants off balance. By contrast, in her recent exploration of the suburban landscape, her images are grounded and formally centered, reflecting her view of the more sedate pace of suburban life. In forcing the viewer to look closer, Wides’ technique highlights the truth that there is no truly “pure” landscape in the Hudson Valley. For her, the human hand is everywhere — from the obvious towering buildings of midtown-Manhattan to the shopping malls of suburbia, from the working farms of Columbia County to the car dumps of the Catskills, no place is untouched. But Wides’ photographs say that although nature is “touched,” there is still great beauty — but it is ravished beauty, such as the Palisades thrown in sharp relief against the buildings that face them across the Hudson. We see rare vistas encased in a surround of degradation and so they take on special significance, in itself the influence of the hand of man. Susan Wides’ ability to find truth within the ordinary landscape is striking and her thoughtfulness on her subject matter rings true. Even her images that are filled with busy, rushing people convey stillness and reflection for a moment frozen in time. It is that stillness that allows the viewer to see and experience anew.
“The world between” is a phrase that could describe Westchester County, a green area fringing New York City on its northern border. The suburbs have been criticized and parodied by dozens of artists and writers. From John Cheever to Eric Fischl, fascination with the suburbs is a cultural stereotype. While Wides has long been interested in the drama of Manhattan and in the scenic magnificence of the Catskills, her most recent work, shown in The Hudson Valley, From Mannahatta to Kaaterskill examines the hidden subtleties of suburban life and landscape.
Susan Wides’ photographs of monumental scenes of nature in and around the Catskills, are locales where one expects to encounter the sublime and pay homage at nature’s temple. As the nineteenth century Hudson River School artists reflect their time, Wides reflects hers. Her images contain doubt and inhabit our age of anxiety. Her photographs recognize that open land is a precious commodity, rapidly disappearing. Though it seems our concern for today, Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole recognized this fact 170 years ago.
All images are courtesy of Susan Wides and Kim Foster Gallery, except where noted.
The Hudson Valley: From Mannahatta to Kaaterskill