Today through May 1, the Arkansas Arts Center plays host to photographer Nathalia Edenmont’s first major U.S. exhibition.
Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature is the artist’s first solo exhibition in a major American museum and features ten, richly colored, large-format photographs. Five of the photographs, including Eden, a self-portrait of the artist, are recent works and have never before been exhibited. Force of Nature is organized by the Arkansas Arts Center and Nancy Hoffman Gallery (New York City) and is presented in conjunction with the Garden Club of America Zone 9 annual meeting, which occurs in Little Rock in late-April 2016.
“Nathalia Edenmont’s photos are striking both in terms of their scale and colorful content,” said Brian J. Lang, chief curator and curator of contemporary craft at the Arkansas Arts Center. “We look forward to hosting Edenmont’s first major U.S. exhibition, giving Arkansans the opportunity to be among the first to see some of her most recent photos.”
Born in 1970 in Yalta, Ukraine, Nathalia Edenmont moved to Sweden by the age of 20, realizing that life in the former Soviet Union was disintegrating and held no future for her. At 27, Edenmont enrolled in the Forsbergs Skola to study graphic design. At the school her artist-mentor, Per Hüttner, encouraged her to visualize her inner pictures and to try to capture them with the camera.
All of Edenmont’s photographs derive from her life experience. “I only look inside my head,” the artist explains. “What I see in my mind is what I create. I do not sketch; the image is complete and sharp within me. I have absolute control over all aspects of what I do.”
Using a large-format Sinar camera with 8×10 film and many lenses, Edenmont works with a team of eight to twelve people over the course of one day to compose a single “shot.” She has two camera assistants (both professional photographers), a hair stylist and a dressmaker.
What each figure wears is central to the meaning of each work. The artist’s “portraits” reflect intensity, each subject stands expressionless and motionless against a pitch-black background, cloaked in flowers revealing only her neck and shoulders; light emanates from within. It is the “flower pile” or dress the artist composes that tells the tale, sometimes with birds or snakes, sometimes with fresh flowers or vegetables, and at other times with wilted blooms. “Since my childhood I have heard that a woman’s beauty is like a flower, it passes quickly,” Edenmont says. “That is why I switch from fresh flowers to dry and very old. I see much beauty in dried flowers. I grew up as a Russian Orthodox and in the cemetery the fresh graves covered in flowers looked like my flower piles from which I compose my dresses.”
Edenmont is a two-time recipient of the Konstnarsnamndens Arbetsstipendium, a grant awarded by the Culture Department in Stockholm, Sweden. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including museums in Sweden, Russia and Germany; Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature is the artist’s first solo exhibition in a major American museum.
Edenmont will speak at an AAC Member Lecture & Late Night event at 6 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. A book signing will immediately follow the lecture.
Nathalia Edenmont: Force of Nature is sponsored by Tipton & Hurst, Kara and David Dowers for Annie Dowers and Dr. and Mrs. Charles Cole.