Photographer Susan Wides explores the Hudson Valley from its southernmost region, Manhattan, north to Westchester County, and then to the Catskills in more than 40 large-scale photographs at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, opening May 28 and on view until September 11. The iconic contemporary landscapes in Susan Wides: The Hudson Valley, From Mannahatta to Kaaterskill show both the transformation and regeneration of a region settled before the American Revolution and which remains, today, the cornerstone of America’s identity and industrial development.
The Valley’s strong sense of place ― its history, architecture, and physical landscape etched by the Hudson River — had been classically evinced in the Hudson River School paintings of the nineteenth century. Now Wides views its towns a new way, with timely and hard-hitting interpretations of a land brimming with human activity and reverberating with immense changes to its lands.
Where once the Palisades stood untouched, amidst pure nature, water, and the sky, these cliffs now exist side by side with industrial sites that line the river from Indian Point on Ramapo Fault [August 12,2009] to Yonkers Contaminated Waterfront [November 29, 2010]. Today the Hudson Valley is home to parking lots, high-tension wires, and housing developments. However Wides’ photographs show the green, too. Golfers play in Dunwoodie, Yonkers [October 21, 2009] and flamingos dance on a Bedford lawn in Steinhardt Gardens [November 1, 2009]. In the Catskills, spotted deer congregate at Game Farm, Heart’s Content Valley [August 24, 2003] and a man walks swiftly along a rocky wall as the Hudson Valley spreads tranquilly beyond him Sunset Rock [October 8, 2007].
Through her re-imagination of social and natural landscapes, Wides shows us that to truly connect with a place and its history, we must walk outside, breathe its air, soak up its light, and experience its space. It has been said that the story of the Hudson River is the story of America. Wides subtly traces our constant movement within this Valley that stretches along the Hudson’s winding banks. From New York City’s decaying West Side Pier ‘D’ [November 19, 1997] to mounded and rusted cars Near Catskill Creek [October 14, 2004], this exhibitiontackles the issues of development and aging infrastructure. It examines, too, how an artist uses images to show nature evolving from the sublime to environmental degradation, and then to preservation. Photographing the character of the Hudson Valley region, Wides uses the swing/tilt technique that has become specific to her work over the past 11 years, and creates a distinct sense of “miniaturization” in many of her panoramic images.
Susan Wides studied with Henry Holmes Smith, an American photographer and teacher known for his cutting-edge techniques. Her photographs are in the collections of La Bibliotheque nationale de France, the Brooklyn Museum, the International Center for Photography, the Museum of the City of New York, and the New York Public Library, among others.
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.