19 May 2007
The effort of Heather Clifford’s landscape photographs is not in their taking—they evince a good but hardly extraordinary eye—but rather in their psychological approach to the landscape. Instead of being pleased with most of what they find in the Chicago geography that is their subject matter, they push and pull, squint and blur, get up close and back away, ever trying to find a place—or rather, a way of looking at a place—that will reveal some kind of magic, an escape from the endlessly flat, sprawling vista that is the capital of the Midwest. Thus the skyscrapers of the Loop tilt and fall away from a strangely desolate Grant Park, a house appears as a mysterious grey fragment with glowing windows, a desolate stone building is caught in motion through a striating fence. These spaces are not magical but Clifford tries hard to make them such. The one place that demands little such effort, the one place that is already magical, she captures differently from the others: the effervescent floating green space of an arboreal canopy, seen from below, looking up but not away. Here there’s no need to look away.