Zoos are un-natural habitats designed to appear natural for an un-naturally close encounter between humans and non-human animals. Drawn to their layered ambiguity, I began in 2005 to photograph at zoos across the country. The odd combination of familiar cultural construction with exotic animals sparked an ongoing fascination.
Consciously aware that while the realistic photograph appears like a transparent reflection of the world, it is produced by mechanical means which distort, crop, and edit through a glass lens, I developed an approach to digitally manipulate the original image and create a surreal yet believable landscape. The large scale of the prints in the series “Simply Stunning” are intended to mirror the original context in which we view the animals (from afar). The eerie, vague background spaces visually separate the zoo animals from us while the detail of the animals and their compelling expressions draw us in. In the end we are faced with a complex environment layered with meaning and contradiction, just as we do with the constructed environments found at zoos.
Allison Hunter (Houston, TX) works in both photography and site-specific installation art. She has exhibited internationally with solo shows at 511 Gallery in NYC, the University of Massachusetts in North Dartmouth, the Open-Air Art Museum in Pedvale, Latvia, and RPI in Troy, NY. Hunter has been included in various group exhibitions including those at the Arthouse, Austin, TX; the 2003 Kingston Sculpture Biennial; the Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO; the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz; Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY; the Houston Center for Photography, TX; the Hermit Foundation, Czech Republic; and here at CPW. She has received residencies and awards including three SOS grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, an individual Artist Grant from the Houston Art Alliance, and residencies from the Swedish Polytechnic in Nykarleby, Finland and the Banff Centre for the Arts, Banff, Alberta. Her images are included in the collections of the Albany institute of History and Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; and CPW. Hunter holds an MFA from the RPI and is represented by 511 Gallery in NYC.