Lynn Davis · Photographs

This exhibition of large-scale photographs by New York artist Lynn Davis features two major series – icebergs and ancient Egyptian sites. Davis’ interest in recording these natural and human-made structures is grounded in her ideas about natural phenomena and history. Davis says, “I think the icebergs inspire rapture and fear ... .” They become isolated monuments, not unlike the ancient Egyptian sites that Davis photographed with direct reference to 19th-century photographers who documented exotic, far-away locations.

In the late 1980s, Davis created a series of photographs of Egyptian sites that include the Great Pyramids at Giza. These images are carefully manipulated aesthetically and technically. Davis relies on the abstract arrangement of the pyramids' shapes, emphasizing the juxtaposition of light and dark areas created by the play of light across their surfaces. Davis’ Chefen, Giza Dynasty IV (1989) exemplifies her manipulation of the photographic image. Her prints of the ancient Egyptian monuments recall the 19th-century photographic techniques of Francis Frith, who documented these same sites. The surfaces are enhanced by nuances of bronze, gold, silver and copper tones. Davis works with her printer, using sepia and selenium toning techniques to achieve tonalities. Of these images, Davis states, “History is my foundation...but my desire is to advance on what has already been done, not to imitate it.”

During a trip to Disko Bay, Greenland, also in the late 1980s, Davis recorded a different kind of monument – icebergs. These austere images rely on clarity of form, enhanced by the contrasting lights and darks of their surfaces. Davis edits most signs of civilization and concentrates on the architectural structure of the natural formations, converting the icebergs into icons of the pure landscape. In Iceberg #6, Disko Bay, Greenland (1988), the viewer realizes the power of the monumental structure of the iceberg. In addition, there is a certain spirituality inherent in these iceberg images as the viewer is confronted with the awesome power of nature emphasized by the subtle blacks, grays and whites of the photographs. 

Davis searched and found new meanings in the often-photographed granite and limestone pyramids in Egypt. What she found in recording the icebergs was not only landscape, but the elements of the earth itself. Davis states, “mine is more an aesthetic interpretation rather than a scientific one, but it’s sort of a confrontation with the elements.”

Lynn Davis was born in 1944 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied at the University of Colorado and the University of Minnesota, and received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1970.

The gallery guide features the essay “Natural Wonders and Sacred Sites” by Alexandra Anderson-Spivy, art critic and New York editor of The Argonaut.