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Fan Mail: Marc Newton

The waning glow of the warm desert sun hangs in the air around a lone female figure. She sits nestled atop a rock formation amid yellow grasses and low, twisted trees. As she gazes lovingly toward the fading sun with trim arms folded over her legs, a sense of hard-earned and well-deserved calm settles in, as though this communication with the landscape has rejuvenated her weary body and mind.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 4, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 inches.  Courtesy the artist.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 4, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

This characterization, derived from Marc Newton’s Constructed Paradise: Untitled 4 (2013), conjures a familiar and easy romanticized image. An idealized woman—trim, tall, natural, athletic, soft, gentle, and somehow at leisure—communing with a powerful and idealized landscape that is at once navigable, forgiving, epic, unspoiled, verdant, endless, and promising. Marc Newton’s series of photographs Constructed Paradise critically navigates the juxtaposition between the idealized, aspirational human figure of men and women, and the natural landscape as it becomes increasingly fetishized while paradoxically disappearing due to human influence.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 17, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 inches.  Courtesy the artist.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 17, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Newton engages the human form as a mirroring device through which to examine the impact that idealization has on natural settings. He does so by inserting shapely mannequins into pristine vistas. While initially humorous, Newton’s compositions are also notably surreal; they play with scale and figural intricacies. In Constructed Paradise: Untitled 17 (2013), taken in Mount Baker National Forest, Washington, a female mannequin with no hands stands facing away from the camera, looking again toward the sun, into what appears to be a rising wind that gives the figure, trees, and low brush a sense of hyper-real movement as well as a bizarre sense of scale, as though the natural landscape is merely a diorama in which the mannequin has been placed.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 12, 2013; archival inkjet print; 21 x 17 inches.  Courtesy the artist.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 12, 2013; archival inkjet print; 21 x 17 in. Courtesy of  the Artist.

In Constructed Paradise: Untitled 12 (2013), set in the Green River Game Lands of North Carolina, Newton places another figure in the landscape. She stands behind a large boulder, one in a group of large rocks covered in lichen, surrounded by bare deciduous trees in late fall. This figure has a slightly more organic stance and realistic-looking hair—at least at a distance—but again the figure feels tiny, almost doll-like in the monumental and picturesque landscape.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 1, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 inches.  Courtesy the artist.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 1, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

As the series progresses through numerous scenes—cold, warm, wet, dry, green, and brown—the idealized vision of the human form is made alien (the mannequins always lack texture and softness), and strangeness is projected more and more clearly onto the landscapes themselves. Each vista must live up to a standard of beauty, containing a hint of mystery and promise, in order to be considered precious or important. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 1 (2013) exemplifies this relationship between ideal human form and ideal landscape most vividly.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 15, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 inches.  Courtesy the artist.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 15, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

A nude man, convincingly real except for the flesh-colored bump in his crotch, stands looking out toward a wetland as a swirl of dreamy mist floats behind him. His tall, lean, angular form, complete with “perfect” muscles, hair, and facial features, stands confidently in a rich landscape, poised equally ready for a high-fashion runway shoot or to walk off into the sublime forest, a juxtaposition that gets at the heart of how natural landscapes are portrayed in photographs: posed yet simultaneously considered natural. Many of these same juxtapositions and comparisons are at play in Constructed Paradise: Untitled 15 (2013), which contains a male and a female mannequin as they descend into a foggy stream, as if to begin the day with a cool, idyllic swim in the rushing water.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 9, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 inches.  Courtesy the artist.

Marc Newton. Constructed Paradise: Untitled 9, 2013; archival inkjet print; 17 x 21 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Much of Marc Newton’s photography provides keen insight into the American landscape and the fraught, bizarre, idealized, and complex relationship people have with it. Newton is simultaneously able to capture awe, critique, and the uncanny expression of human desire. The Constructed Paradise series, above all else perhaps, allows insight into the ways in which the projections of the idealized self affect those things that are—and should remain—precisely not human.

 

Marc Newton is a conceptual landscape photographer working in Savannah, GA. He has a BA from Brevard College, Brevard, NC, and an MFA in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA. His work has been included in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States including: Non-Fiction Gallery, Savannah, GA; Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum, Golden, CO; Newspace Center for Photography, Portland, OR; O2 Gallery, Austin, TX; Center for Photographic Arts, Carmel, CA; and Sims Art Gallery, Brevard, NC.

 

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