On January 10, 2015 Oakland University Art Gallery in Rochester, MI, opened an exhibition of work by Susan Goethel Campbell who completed her MFA in printmaking at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1989. Curated by Dick Goody, FIELD GUIDE spans ten years of Campbell’s multi-disciplinary work in which nature and engineered environments coalesce through collection, documentation and observation. Campbell’s work documents wind movements, cloud formations, and aerial images of urban settings across the country. She describes her work as a “hybrid between the landscape and the environment,” noting that, “observation and documentation of the natural world are part of my daily practice.”
Part artist, scientist, meteorologist, and archivist, Campbell’s work measures air pollution and collects weather data using both high and low technology. Over time, her work evolved in many directions or typologies. 1) Aerials are woodblock prints of urban landscapes that focus on atmosphere. 2) Field Guides document weather, seasonal debris, and the intersection of culture and nature. 3) Heatscapes illustrate the urban heat island phenomenon. 4) Bricks explore environmental growth and decay. 5) Weather articulates 365 days of weather movement in Detroit from a single location using time-lapse videography. 6) Winds are a series of woodblock prints that diagram the direction of wind speed. 7) Seasonal documents debris from plants and trees. 8) Grounds feature inverted sod dried and arranged in various forms on the floor. Campbell’s interest in nature and the environment moves fluidly in these directions—from the sky to the ground—to explore various kinds of landscapes.
The work selected for this exhibition is derived from several of these themes and includes enlarged photo images of altered landscapes, video projections, and three-dimensional objects which Campbell describes as circular clods. Part of her Grounds series, these clods contain grass grown in vacuum-formed plastic mandala shapes often displayed on the floor in multiples. FIELD GUIDES also includes a series of time-lapse scenes displayed on a video monitor from a web cam on a Detroit rooftop. The work stands in contrast to her Heatscapes series, which illustrate how urban areas are warmer than surrounding rural locations. In a large darkened room, a video projection displays the silhouette of a large tree on a winter night; small glimmers of light trail off from a passing aircraft in the background.
Collectively, this elegant work leaves the viewer with a sense of respect for an artist who meticulously selects the landscape as her muse. Campbell observes nature and society’s impact over time; her visual analysis of this imagery forces us to consider our effect on the surrounding world.
Susan Goethel Campbell: FIELD GUIDE is on view through February 22, 2015.
Ron Scott is a pseudonym for a writer based in the Detroit area. View more articles by Ron Scott.