"Acts of Nature" on Display: Their works resist the notion that the world simply gets folded into the two-dimensional surface of the photograph.

By Lucas Seiler

The destruction of “acts of nature” has been brought to an art gallery setting by Chicago sculptor and painter Heather Mekkelson. Entitled “Debris Field,” the sculpture shows the aftermath of a disaster, allowing an open interpretation of the act of devastation itself.

“Each element is supposed to represent what the author saw in the disaster image,” said Corinne Rose, Museum of Contemporary Photography education director.

The piece is part of “Photodimensional” the show on display at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. The theme of the show is the relationship between two-dimensional photography and the three dimensions of sculpture.

As Mekkelson’s artwork may be controversial in style and may not appear to be a simple photograph, the meaning of her work is not meant to represent beauty. Her is representative of the aftermath, construction and human intervention that have taken place following a hurricane or tornado.

Mekkelson uses photographs taken from the scenes of disasters in newspapers or magazines, and then begins to construct a visual for the viewer. Within her artwork are hints of human activity, suggesting that people may have lived there.

Rose explained that Mekkelson had been asked by the museum to use part of a gallery to set up “Debris Field.” She said, “This was a site-specific installation.”

Among the work of other artists displayed was that of Lorna Simpson, an African-American photographer. Using “conceptually based ideas” and black and white photographs, this artist takes the work of other artists like James Van Der Zee, infamous for his photography, and brings their meaning to a higher level.

“She puts the images to words,” said Rose.

As Simpson has been known for her efforts to raise awareness of the struggles of African Americans in today’s society, she uses very “descriptive words without being emotional” to compose her outlook. She starts out with her chosen object of art, perhaps studying it from sculpture, transfers it to a picture and then puts it into text for a broader explanation.

Perhaps the work entitled “La Ronde,” by German artist Bettina Hoffman, shows the most unique aspect of how humans view different situations from different points of view, literally. The eerie music throughout the film creates a feeling of despair, anxiety and tension.

Situated in the screening room, the work by Hoffman uses “simple settings with domestic objects,” along with people holding very still. On the floor is a camera moving on tracks, circling around the actors. This lets the viewer see every point of view possible in the room and construct his or her own version of what the story is about.

“This allows us to see how we see and how the camera sees,” said Rose. “The viewer completes the story.”

The Museum of Contemporary Photography has numerous displays varying from photography, to sculpture, text and video. The variety of artwork there is featured on purpose, forming a diverse environment.

“We try to be diverse about the artists we show,” said Rose.