Any landscape of Hanson’s at which we look, however initially attractive, will soon yield its terrible secret—one need only look more closely.
“Wilderness to Wasteland,” David T. Hanson’s striking and disturbing sequence of landscape photographs, is most dramatically comprehended in the context of the history of American landscape art and of the evolution of the “real”: as Hanson suggests in his title, we have here an inexorable movement, a despoliation of Eden. His images are a rare combination of surpassing beauty and ugliness—if by “ugliness” we mean the ruin of nature and the poisoning of humankind. For here, juxtaposed with the traditionally celebrated contours of nature—mountains, hills, streams, valleys, grasslands, deserts, “big” skies—are slag heaps and waste dumps, abandoned mines, oil rigs, tanks, power lines, deforested forests, uranium mills, every kind of erosion and toxic landfill and Superfund site.
JCO has previously written “David Hanson’s ‘Colstrip, Montana’ Series,” published in American Art, Spring 1992.
Image: From David T. Hanson’s Uranium mill waste pond, Lincoln Park Superfund site, Canon City, Colorado, 1986.