Shape Shifting is a series of images of rocks in many forms— from the extraterrestrial to the architectural. Accompanied by a quote from Ovid’s Metamorphosis on the constancy of change in the universe, the project responds to the existential terror that uncontrolled climate change instills. The book is an attempt to reckon with change and destruction as ineluctable facets of existence.
The photographs range from faked asteroid images, screenshots of glitched marble floors from Google Cultural Institute, rock walls facing the Ellora Caves in India, and serpentine outcroppings in San Francisco. The book was printed at Penumbra Foundation in New York City by Leandro Villaro in 2019 and hand assembled by Theresa Ganz. It includes a silver gelatin print and two hand colored pages.
Theresa Ganz makes landscapes and interiors in the form of collage, video and installation. While her primary medium is photography, a singular, still image is almost never the final product. She uses the referential and literal quality of the photograph to create an altered reality.
Ganz’s work blends the 19th century Romantic vision of the individual in nature with the 21st century lived experience mediated by screens. In traditional Western art, landscape tends to suggest vastness and the conquering of “man” over nature, or conversely nature’s awesome greatness and the smallness of “man.”
This sensibility, the sublime, was expressed in painting through an expansive outward vision, coded as masculine, in contrast to natural forms found in decoration, rendered as surfaces and coded as feminine. One was divine, while the other worldly and base. Collaging photographic features of landscape, Ganz seeks to undermine these dispositions, offering a more myopic and ambiguous vision. She makes work that refers to the decorative but reaches for the sublime through sheer scale and queasy disorientation. From these cut out parts, she constructs architectural spaces and decorative motifs.
Romanticism and later Transcendentalism promised spiritual experience through communion with nature. In a time of catastrophic environmental degradation, this seems unattainable. Still, the impulse remains.
Ganz is currently the Associate Professor of Visual Art at Brown University.