Sandy Skoglund (1999-10-22)

Sandy Skoglund
Practice: Photography Installation
Date of Lecture: 1999-10-22


Usually, we think of photographs as showing us something from the world around us. We believe pictures provide proof that a person or place existed or that an event actually happened. Skoglund’s photograph looks like something from a science fiction movie where cats glow from exposure to radiation… it is not like any photograph we have seen before. Her success is due in part to her resourcefulness. Skoglund uses all her skills – as a sculptor, painter, cartoonist and designer in staging the scenes she photographs.” – Sylvia Wolf, Focus: Five Women Photographers

Sandy Skoglund has been working in photography and installation since the early seventies. Her most widely-recognized works exist both as photographs and as installations: images such as “Radioactive Cats“(1980) and “Revenge of the Goldfish“(1981) are often exhibited along-side the environments that originally served as “sets” for the photographs.

Skoglund_Sandy_w01The Cocktail Party, 1992 © Sandy Skoglund

Skoglund’s specialty is an unnerving mix of dream and nightmare. She creates bizarre, highly-staged scenarios in which the mundane (the office, the one-room apartment, the bedroom, the backyard) is turned upside-down by the proliferation of a single element (a goldfish, a cat, a leaf, a baby). The images are based in a certain interpretation of surrealism, wherein dreams and reality are crisscrossed, but Skoglund puts a distinct spin on the matter. Critic Mary Goldwater has explained “Skoglund puts Surrealism in the service of social and political commentary, as she expresses concerns about the workplace, overpopulation, aging and nuclear war, if not exactly by analogy, then by illusion or hyperbole.

Skoglund was born in Quincy, Massachusetts in 1946. In 1968 she earned her BA in Studio Art from Smith College. She went on to earn her MA and MFA from the University of Iowa in 1972. She has been a professor of art since 1973, while continuing to produce and exhibit work around the world. She has lived and worked in New York since 1972. Among her most recent works are “Shimmering Madness” (1999) “Breathing Glass” (2000) and “Walking on Eggshells” (2002).

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