Donna J. Wan, "Untitled (Newburgh Beacon)", from the series "Promised Lands", 2009, archival digital print, 50X40”

Donna J. Wan, “Untitled (Newburgh Beacon)”, from the series “Promised Lands”, 2009, archival digital print, 50X40”

Donna J. Wan

“Promised Lands” is about perceptions of the contemporary landscape. The 19th century, Hudson River School painters established an idealized and romanticized view of the American landscape with their paintings featuring towering mountains, overwhelming skies, vast fields, and endless seas. Especially with regard to the West, the landscape became a symbol for freedom, opportunity, and exploration. Today depictions of landscape often veer toward extremes – either they are of “pure” places that are untainted by human intervention or they represent locations, sometimes exotic, that have been severely compromised by industry and development. I believe that neither representation is useful because it does not reflect our reality – we live in houses, work in buildings, drive on the road, and enjoy many of the conveniences of modern life – and it seems unlikely that we are prepared to give these amenities up for a return to an Edenic time. Yet, it’s still possible to view the landscape in ways that take into account our hopes and dreams as well as our fears and failures. My photographs invoke romanticized notions of the landscape but also feature man’s impact on the natural world. Sometimes, the effects of modernization seem like slow and inevitable developments onto the land. Other times, urbanization appears to threaten to overtake the landscape. My intent is to question how our perceptions of the landscape have changed over the past two centuries, after we have remade a considerable part of it in our image.

Donna J. Wan was born in Taiwan, raised in New York, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her BA in Economics and her MBA from Stanford University in 1999. In 2008 she graduated from the MFA program at the San Francisco Art Institute.Wan’s work has been exhibited at Newspace Center for Photography (Portland, OR), Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (Santa Ana, CA), the Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins, CO), and the San Francisco Art Institute (San Francisco, CA), among others. She has been the recipient of the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward Emerging Photographer’s Award in 2007 and the PX3 Prix De La Photographie Paris Award in 2007. She has been a guest lecturer and instructor at Olana State Historical Park in Hudson, New York, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Donna J. Wan was an artist in residence at CPW in 2009.