The open road. It guides you on a journey through a landscape that is much bigger than your imagination can frame. It is a space in which you can look for miles all around you and feel so lost and yet so established - with only the wind on your back and the sand at your heels to guide you.
Your cheeks almost feel sun-ripened as you enter the world of Victoria Sambunaris. She brings you along with her on this tour of the West, a Taxonomy of a Landscape that has you awestruck from the start. Take a deep breath and inhale the natural air around you that goes down with a bitter taste of industrialization. Sambunaris rolls down her window and opens a lens to a panoramic and life size exhibit of color prints that make you feel like you are right beside her.
The gallery serves a white backdrop like an overcast sky to the scenery. The photographs exist without frames so you without hesitation step into this land. Immediately you are grabbed by the majestic composition of the scenery. Each print is sized no smaller than a window so you can experience the grand proportions. The artist tells a story that is meant to be a diary of her trip. The commentary of the relationship between man and nature and how over time our existence has shaped the landscape. As vulnerable as we feel falling to our knees to this massive beast, we still have the power to make it crumble beneath us.
Taking a trip to Wendover, Utah - an Untitled piece from 2007 tells more of a story than meets the eye. Sambunaris visited the city on her journey and discovered that the city of Wendover is divided in two states. West Wendover is in Nevada, and Wendover is in the state of Utah. Taking a vast observational picture of the town from a high elevation makes the town seem small and quant in the midst of the clay colored mountains surrounding. The city, divided by a main street that falls on the state border, is shown in a perspective that guides the eye into the town offering a glimpse of the story behind it. West Wendover is notorious for it’s gambling business and along with that a population of fun loving and free-wheeling individuals. Across the street in Utah, the laws are different. Gambling is not legal and the conservative nature of the East lends for quite a bit of tension between the city, leaving much to be told than in its cross state rivalry.
It is a similar thread that links all of her work. Sambunaris tells a story with each photo. She takes a moment in time, a moment in landscape that means something to her. Reading between the lines of her travel diary maybe Wendover offered something more. A story to tell, an experience to capture. There is something about the raw and grounded nature of her images that leave us wanting to experience the landscape with our own eyes.
By: David Olinger
March 4, 2013