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Renate Aller
Chiaroscuro, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Kathryn M Davis

Continuing through July 3, 2010

Back in the 19th century, Europeans and East-Coast Americans were worried about the end of the natural world - as well they should have been, what with the Industrial Revolution polluting most major cities in the Western world. Out of this fear came Romanticism in art, a movement about beauty and the sublime in nature. Edmund Burke's "Philosophical Enquiry," published in 1757, proposed that the sublime is not the equivalent of beauty; in fact, he argued that the sublime invokes in us a sense of profound meekness. The Romantic painters, such as Caspar David Friedrich and J.M.W. Turner, depicted nature as something beyond all comprehension; it overpowered and enveloped - and always would - humanity's attempts to harness its potency.

Imagine, then, the humble discipline behind photographing the Atlantic Ocean from your stilt home on Long Island, from the same place, every day for ten years. Renate Aller, inspired by Friedrich, has performed this act of devotion to the sublime; her "Oceanscapes" are presented in book and exhibition form. Rather than journalistic images, Aller's painterly photographs are monuments to notions of the sublime, defined by Burke as that which brings us to our knees in abject humility: the sheer unyielding beauty of its vastness, the unfathomable depths and expanses of an ocean that neither knows nor cares about us. Polluted or not, the earth is made of water. It will still be here - in some form - eons after we've wiped ourselves off its face.

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