There is a creature that inhabits Easton in the manner it approaches its prey, the cover of night allows it to hunt unnoticed.
Photographer Peter Ydeen claims nocturnal Easton as his territory. His home turf of the past number of years comes alive under the gossamer gaze of his lens. It is like Ydeen is using night goggles while the rest of the world is experiencing tunnel vision.
The captivating results create a world of atmospheric abandonment and eerie enchantment. He is both an urban landscape photographer and an artist of abandonment. His nightscapes are infused with an internal yearning for a city that has gone missing. His photographic portrayals of emptiness give an otherwise static universe an umbrella of “underground” uniformity. A surreal script, non-linear in its narrative, and the dragnet it throws create “colors and contrasts” and places of substance and shadow.
No one knows better than the Susquehanna Art Museum’s (SAM) Director of Exhibitions Lauren Nye that, when one door closes, another one opens. She was responsible for not only bringing Valeri Larko’s “Hidden City” painted paradise of abandoned spaces to SAM but curating it, as well. Filling the lobby gallery over its three-month run, that exhibit closed on Sunday.
As it became history, Ydeen’s urban landscape photography opened nearby, and I saw it for the first time during last Friday’s 3rd in the Burg. Nye rightfully placed it like a jewel in the DeSoto Family Vault. Ydeen’s “Dreams,” like Larko’s before, share the thread of longing and loss with things and places once inhabited and imbued with life that have become mere relics of the past. Under her steady hand and gimlet eye, Nye showcases “Dreams” in the most intimate of spaces at SAM. When you enter the Vault, you enter a world from another dimension, one that pays homage to isolation and interpretation, to imagination and idylls.
Snapshots from the Vault include “Pink Line,” which derives its title from the neon glow capping the top of the frame. A used car dealership is romanced in its depiction as “Car Heaven” with its pop of pink doubling as a halo. Another, “Garden of Eden,” takes place in nearby Bethlehem, which occupies a space of lush green foliage leading to an open area. The only thing missing are Adam and Eve. Ydeen’s self-deprecating humor is evident in his photo titles like “Tree Eats Mall,” “Digestion,” and “Vogue Couture, Paris, Pennsylvania.”
In producing a sobering study in languid landscapes, Ydeen does not take himself too seriously. He shoots when the lights come on, giving his stage sets life. Swathed in a sodium vapor that is admitted by streetlights, his images cast an ethereal essence that evaporates as night lapses into day. Any semblance of those who once danced and dreamed have been wiped clean, leaving only the props for posterity. The exhibit is a testament to time’s mutability and matter over memory. Ydeen’s photography is both poetic and potent, allowing the viewer to fill in the blanks, populate the portraits or not and wander through the city and landscapes haunted or in harmony with the present state of being.
While at SAM, venture upstairs to see the Main Gallery exhibits—painter Inka Essenhigh’s fantastical “Other Worlds” and the thought provoking “War Is Only Half the Story,” an exhibit from 40 photojournalists that depicts war in all its myriad meanings.
Art in its purest form is meant to fire the imagination, open up new worlds, inspire and challenge, stir emotion and create a connection between art and life, even if landscapes are the only sign of life in the frame.
Art This and That: Upcoming events of note in November
Nov. 22: “Picturing a More Perfect Union: Violet Oakley’s Mural Studies for the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber 1911 to 1919,” opens at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
Nov. 30: The Odd Ones Bazaar, with over 50 artists and vendors, takes place at the Millworks in Harrisburg. Small Business Saturday is on this date, so support your local galleries, merchants and museums. Shop small, think big!
“Dreams” by Peter Ydeen shows through Jan. 12 in the DeSoto Family Vault at the Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.susquehannaartmuseum.org.