This week we recognize Barbara Boissevain Barbara Boissevain, and her work exploring the impacts of human activity on the environment.
In a series of images titled “Ghost Hangar” (above) Boissevain explored how “As caretakers of our environment we are bound to the missteps of our predecessors. Hangar One is an iconic colossal structure that is also the largest Superfund site in Silicon Valley. Rife with controversy, it was recently found to be leaking toxic chemicals into the San Francisco Bay. These aerial shots depict the resulting biological die-off of the wetlands in close proximity to the hangar. The intent of this work is to cultivate awareness and provoke meaningful discourse about environmental stewardship.” click images for more info
“The trees will outlive us,” 2016 (above) explores abandoned human structures as they decay and transform. Through the process of investigating these sites the artist looks for clues alluding to their pasts and imagined how they would be further altered by the passage of time. In post-production, she layers location specific elements highlighting the tension between the present beauty and the future evolution of these relinquished sites. This series began in 2016 when Boissevain began photographing a family farm located on Montauk Highway in Long Island, New York. The farm, homesteaded by her great-grandfather over a century ago, is no longer a working farm. The structures are being consumed by the forest that was there long before my family set foot on Long Island after arriving from Europe. This is an ongoing project and I will be continuing to seek-out and photograph locations undergoing this process of reclamation and transformation.”
Continuing the series “Les Arbres Nous Survivront (The Trees Will Outlive Us),” 2018-2019 (above) during the summers of 2018 and 2019, as an artist-in-residence in France, Boissevain began photographing structures being consumed by forest and forgotten by their former inhabitants (above). These sites include a decommissioned coal factory, a Château in Normandy that was used as a headquarters for the Nazi’s during World War II and an abandoned abbey most recently used as a convalescent home.
"Allégorie du Jardin,” 2022 (above) came about after Boissevain’s time spent living in France. The daily onslaught of disturbing news regarding our environment, combined with living in a place with so many layers of history all around her caused her to think very deeply about our species’ relationship to nature and how we have historically seen ourselves in relation to our environment. Looking for answers in the incredible gardens and parks in Paris where the history of man’s relationship with nature is visible around every corner. Spending hours In the giant historical archive, the library’s collections requested archival prints (hundreds of years old) of the very same parks and gardens she was photographing. She experimented with bringing together the past and present, by compositing archival prints with contemporary photographs of the same subject matter.
One of Boissevain’s most recent projects is a book titled “Salt of the Earth” 2023 (below), focusing on the environment for more than twenty years and highlighting the changes that she witnessed firsthand taking place in our environment. Boissevain remains driven to show the power art has to educate. Her intention with the book is to remind people that positive change is possible. In February and March of this year a kickstarter campaign ran for the production of the book, which will be a 110-page hardcover photo book with over seventy of her color photographs documenting the restoration of the San Francisco Bay's salt ponds back to natural wetlands. In addition to the images, the book will also feature essays by Laura Noble, a London-based art critic and writer, and John Hart, an award-winning environmental journalist. "Salt of the Earth" will raise awareness about the incredible transformation taking place in the San Francisco Bay.
Barbara Boissevain is a visual artist and photographer whose work focuses on the impact of human activity on the environment. The theme of nature’s ability to regenerate and reclaim human altered landscapes is central to her work. Boissevain first studied painting at Parsons School of Design in New York, before immersing herself in photography, earning a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.F.A. from San Jose State University. She has exhibited her work widely, including international solo and group exhibitions in the USA and Europe. Her work has been published in a number of publications including Lenscratch and The American Scholar. In 2021 her work was featured on NPR’s “The Picture Show” (in conjunction with the U.N. Climate Change Summit in Glasgow, Scotland) as well as on the PBS News show “Something Beautiful” in 2022. Her art has been acquired by numerous public and private collections around the world, including the Google corporate collection. For seven years, she was an artist in residence with the City of Palo Alto’s Cubberley Artist Studio Program in Palo Alto, California. In 2018 she was awarded an artist-in-residence in France at Galerie Huit in Arles, France (in conjunction with the internationally renowned Les Rencontres de la Photographie Festival). In July of 2022 she was invited to Atelier 11 for a solo residency through L’AiR Arts international residency program in Paris, France.www.barbaraboissevain.com
Featured images (top to bottom): ©Barbara Boissevain, Ghost Hangar series, images primarily shot in Silicon Valley; The trees will outlive us 2016, Long Island NY; Les Arbres Nous Survivront 2018-2019, France; Allégorie du Jardin 2022, France; Salt of the Earth 2023; Portrait of the artist.