Photographer and 2018 Guggenheim Fellow David Maisel discusses his work, including his latest project, "Proving Ground."
“David Maisel is often described as a landscape photographer, although that term hardly begins to describe the breadth and ambition of his project. He is a prolific aerial photographer who has hovered and buzzed over some of the most contentious territories in the American West and in doing so has been instrumental in redefining the terms of landscape imagery. Many of his pictures convey a terrible beauty — to savor their grandeur we must also imbibe a hint of poison. And when not in the air, he has created haunting and ghostly imagery from X-rays and tins of the cremated remains of psychiatric patients. Born in New York in 1961 and now a long-time resident of Northern California, Maisel’s work has been exhibited and collected by many major museums in the world.”
David Maisel was interviewed on August 24, 2015, in conjunction with the exhibition "The Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Acquired with the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund" (May 3-September 13, 2015). The exhibition featured photographs from Maisel's series "History's Shadow," a project he began while a scholar in residence at the Getty Research Institute.
From themes of political suppression to mankind’s misuse of the land, a new Spark special from KQED highlights thought provoking work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and American photographer David Maisel.
David Maisel’s two aerial photography series The Lake Project (2001 – 2002) and Oblivion (2004) explore respectively the landscapes of Owens Lake and the Los Angeles metropolis. Owens Lake, a mostly dry glacial lake some two hundred miles to the northeast of Los Angeles on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, was drained throughout the 20th Century to supply water to the ever-growing Los Angeles megalopolis. The desiccated Owens Lake, transformed through the immensity of water diversion projects that fed the Los Angeles Aqueduct, has become the largest toxic dust site in the United States and remains so, even with the more recent partial restoration of water flow to the site in an attempt to mitigate its toxicity.
Subverted is a group exhibition with artworks by Edward Burtynsky (Ontario, Canada, 1955), David Maisel (New York, USA, 1961), Nuno Ramos (São Paulo, Brasil, 1960) and Carlo Valsecchi (Brescia, Itay, 1965). The show throws a spotlight on the rapport between man and Nature, a relationship whose dynamic has been radically altered over the last few decades.
For over twenty years the Oregon State Psychiatric Hospital stored the cremated remains of patients in copper containers. Photographer David Maisel found them, and shows the beautiful — and bizarre — chemical reactions that took place as the canisters corroded in his exhibit "Library of Dust," currently at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside. Produced by Sarah Lilley.
David Maisel was born in New York City in 1961 and now lives and works in the San Francisco area. His photographs, multi-media projects, and public installations have been exhibited internationally, and are included in many permanent collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. His work has been the subject of three monographs: The Lake Project (Nazraeli Press, 2004), Oblivion (Nazraeli Press, 2006), and Library of Dust (Chronicle Books, 2008). A portfolio of Maisel's work is also available in Daylight Issue #3.
Aerial photographer David Maisel shoots environmental messes -- like cyanide leaching fields and dried-out lakes. But his color prints are big, gorgeous, and mysterious. Maisel talks about his pictures of Los Angeles, just published in the book Oblivion, and how he seduces and betrays viewers at the same time. Produced by Trey Kay.
I have long been fascinated by the photography of David Maisel. Often, when people who don’t know much about fine-art photography joke around about what they think it is (can you guess?), I show them David’s website. Once they’re hooked to the beauty of the images, I tell them what they’re really looking at, and that never fails to work. However, I have always felt a little bit uncomfortable about admiring beautiful images of things that are quite disastrous, so I asked David whether he would talk about this with me.
In his own words, David has a “fascination with the undoing of the landscape.” He has become most widely known for his aerial work, which includes extended studies of North American mines, clear-cut forests, urban sprawl, evaporation ponds and other peripheral industries of the Great Salt Lake.