Marion Belanger photographs the cultural landscape, particularly where geology and the built environment intersect. Her work is research based – she utilizes archives, museums, films, and books of both fiction and non-fiction about her chosen subject.
Belanger was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to photograph the contested landscape of the Florida Everglades in 2002. Rather than focusing only on the wetlands in the protected National Park, she ventured into the drained swampland of the historic Everglades, where housing developments, sugarcane fields, and water control structures occupy the landscape. For her book Rift/ Fault (2016) Belanger photographed the two land-based edges of the North American Continental Plate, along the San Andreas Fault in California, and the Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland.
The artist earned a M.F.A. from the Yale University School of Art where she was the recipient of both the John Ferguson Weir Award and the Schickle-Collingwood Prize, and a B.F.A. from the College of Art & Design at Alfred University. She has been an artist in residence at the MacDowell Colony, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Arts, Everglades National Park, and MASS MoCA. Her photographs are shown internationally, and her work is held in the collections of the National Gallery for Art, the Library of Congress, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Her exhibitions include Photography and America’s National Parks, George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; Internationale Fototage: Contemporary American Photography, Mannheim, Germany; Northern (L) Attitudes: Norwegian and American Contemporary Art, The American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, NY; and Both Sides of the Street: Celebrating the Corcoran’s Photography Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, among others.
She is a current honoree for the 2017 Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography from the Israeli Museum of Art and she is the author of Everglades: Outside and Within, with an essay by Susan Orlean (Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago, 2009), and Rift/ Fault, with an essay by Lucy Lippard (Radius Books, 2016). The artist resides in Guilford, Connecticut where she teaches at the Hartford Art School, and in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan University.
Surrounded Everywhere by the Sea
I photograph landscapes, civic structures and people on the cusp of change, evoking liminal moments expressed in artifact, symbolism and mood. I am currently working in Cuba where fitful change is omnipresent — yet tentative, fraught and uncertain. Author/critic Lucy Lippard recently captured the essence of my work: “In a growing field of critical landscape photographers, the conceptual clarity and understated execution of [Belanger’s work] stands out, a narrative seriality or aesthetic sequencing that seems suited to representing mobility and change.”
Although I began photographing in Cuba more than a decade ago, this project originated the week President Obama and the Rolling Stones visited Havana in the spring of 2016. I witnessed the excitement of the presidential motorcade and thrill of the Rolling Stones playing in a country where their music had for so long been prohibited. Optimism and hope, and analogies to Woodstock (albeit a clean and sober one), were inescapable. Since then I have been back four times, felt the Cuban people’s enthusiasm grow, then begin to tire and wane, and, now, dissipate with the coming of another crackdown on American travel.
Surrounded Everywhere by the Sea focuses on this fitful change through a number of distinct, interrelated frameworks titled Hotel, Monument, Cemetery, and Farmer. The perspective is subjective; the physical locations are rendered by distinct artifact, the individuals by intimate portrait. Included here are photographs from both Farmer, and Monument.
To view more of Marion’s work please visit her website.