By combining the precise detailing of photographic realism with the extravagant exaggeration of the still life, my photographs navigate the border between nature and artifice in order to explore my interest in the human presence in the environment.
I am fascinated with the tensions inherent in a “wilderness” that is circumscribed, managed, and manipulated by humans. Therefore, for the last five years, I have been photographing the landscape of national parks and nature preserves in the Southwestern United States and Central America. I create my artwork by projecting these photographic images of the protected landscapes onto assemblages of natural history specimens taken from their environment. I then rephotograph this assemblage with a view camera to produce an image of a newly created imaginary landscape. Rather than approach these managed natural spaces from a documentary perspective, these constructed photographs employ a personal, expressive stance to explore the anxiety inherent in contemporary culture as we confront new scientific possibilities of manipulating our environment.
By mirroring the creative possibilities of the current biotechnological juncture, still life becomes a particularly apt form of expression. Absent of traces of tragic sentiment or nostalgia, these images are meant to explore, like expeditionary photographers of the 19th century, the possibilities and menace of this unfamiliar and uncharted territory.
Dornith Doherty is an Associate Professor of Photography at the School of Visual Arts at the University of North Texas. She received her MFA in photography from Yale University in 1988. Her work is shown at Pillsbury and Peters Fine Art in Dallas, Texas, and Bassetti Fine Art Photographs in New Orleans, LA. Additionally she has been in shows at the James Gallery in Houston, TX; Society for Contemporary Photography, Kansas City, MO; Women and Their Work Gallery, Austin, TX; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and the ASUC Art Studio at University of California Berkeley. She has lectured widely at numerous venues – the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Notre Dame University, the University of New Mexico Albuquerque, and Society for Photographic Education National Conference – just to name a few, and has been published in over two dozen features. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Museum of Fine Arts Milwaukee, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Yale University Library, and Goldman-Sachs. Grants and fellowships to her name include a 2003 Japan foundation Grant, a 2002 Faculty Research Opportunity Grant from the University of North Texas, a United States Department of Interior National Parks Service Artist Residency at Joshua Tree National Park, and a 1994-95 Fulbright grant.