(American, b.1970; resides in Lincoln, NE)
In Dana Fritz’s ongoing project Terraria Gigantica: the World Under Glass, which the artist began in 2007, the viewer is invited to see inside of three of the world’s largest indoor garden complexes: Biosphere 2, in Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains; the Lied Jungle and Desert Dome at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska; and the Eden Project in southern England. These sites function as both research laboratories and tourist destinations, and they represent, as Fritz observes, “the pinnacle of controlled, studied, and aestheticized nature made possible by new technologies.” Housed in nearly airtight enclosures, these meticulously engineered spaces provide total control of environmental factors like temperature and humidity, even down to the chemistry of the air, water, and soil. In turn this enables scientists to emulate many different biomes, from rain forest to desert to ocean biomes.
Fritz is drawn to the strange beauty of these artificial landscapes but by photographing them she aims to underscore how they illuminate our complex relationship with the natural world. Many of the images highlight the relationship of the complexes’ infrastructure and the cultivated plant-life within. Others depict living species alongside decorative imitations, such as jungle backdrops painted on concrete walls. In light of the popularity of these places, Fritz asks us to consider the possibility that these places become, in her words, “a substitute for less controllable and convenient outdoor experiences,” and for that matter, if they “are an effective educational tool for motivating visitors to preserve the actual places they represent.”
Dana Fritz received a BFA in Photography/Video from Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri (1992) and an MFA in Intermedia from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1995). Her work is included in the collections of Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France; Center for Photography at Woodstock, New Paltz, New York; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona; and Wayne State College, Wayne, Nebraska. Fritz is an associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In her series Garden Views: the Culture of Nature Dana Frtiz photographs diverse gardens in the United States, England, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan, which evidence a widespread desire not to protect nature so much as to perfect it or improve on it. Considering these highly cultivated spaces, she writes, “Closer inspection reveals a delicate equilibrium, collaboration, and sometimes a collision of culture and nature,” and it is not so much the beauty of the gardens that concerns Fritz but what they reveal about the cultures that have shaped them. Her square gelatin-silver prints emphasize the structure of the gardens themselves—such as the braces, bindings, stakes, and wires used to control the plant-life—while her compositions cultivate a sense of formal and metaphorical tension.