If you have been suddenly captivated by a series of photographs on the University of Wyoming campus or around Laramie, chances are you were bearing witness to the artistic brilliance of Susan Moldenhauer, Director and Chief Curator of the University of Wyoming Art Museum since 1991. We at Open Window are very pleased to feature her work as it graces the covers and interior of Issue 5. Her series of photos, “In the Land of Earthborn Spirits” exemplify the poetic and living experience of light and shadow, form and substance, that characterizes her work.
Over the span of her career, Susan Moldenhauer began her education as an artist with a BFA from Northern Illinois University and earned an MFA in Photography from Penn State University, where as a graduate student, she had the opportunity to serve as director of a gallery showing the work of photographers from across the nation, and went on to run two other galleries before graduating and spending five years as Director of the Second Street Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Since her arrival at the University of Wyoming in 1991, Moldenhauer has devoted her career to ensuring the quality and excellence of the Art Museum’s collections and programs, and as an artist herself, she is involved in a number of collaborative projects. She believes that the experience of art across all genres is a place where humanity, intellect, and the ability to imagine the yet unknown naturally intersect, and can create personal connections across myriad cultures and communities.
Moldenhauer’s photographs are hauntingly lovely and evoke a depth and even a sentience of place that one might seek a thousand years in the work of other artists and never find. Her philosophy of landscape and photography is one of authenticity, a sense of the moment, and allowing nature to present itself to the camera as would a human subject. She does not frame her shots, nor does she crop or alter them, but rather offers them up as a spiritual and emotional experience that portrays a living moment for the viewer. In this way, her photos reflect the authenticity of the subject; she feels the composition of light and shadow through the lens, as do we. This is, perhaps, why her photographs seem to breathe into the space they inhabit—not as a finite, wall-bound depiction of a moment, but as a living piece of the world around us.
In 2012, Moldenhauer completed an art project in which she, along with Wendy Bredehoft and Margaret Wilson, traveled to and variously interpreted the British Museum, Fort Laramie, and UCross through photographs, dance, and multimedia works of art. This project became a series of exhibition and the book, Sequencing Through Time and Place, and is available via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year, the three women travel to Venice, Italy to begin a new project, experiencing and rendering Venice from the artistic perspectives of Thomas Moran. We look greatly forward to the fruit of such a rich adventure.
–Lori Howe, EIC, Open Window Review
In the Land of Earthborn Spirits
Twenty miles east of Laramie, WY is a place called Vedauwoo, a Precambric wrinkle in the earth where, over the millennia, natural forces sculpted the rocky oasis. Its name comes from the Arapaho word for “earthborn” – bito’o’wu. For me, it is a place to further my exploration into the metaphors for the spiritual made manifest in light and shadow, human presence, and moments captured photographically. My images are composed at the time of digital capture and transformed into monochromatic, poetic expressions.
[click image for larger view]