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Homage to Nature (from the series Doubleworld)

Sarah Charlesworth, Homage to Nature (from the series Doubleworld), 1995, dye bleach print, 52 x 42 in. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Jane Reese Williams Collection, Gift of Bobbie Foshay, 1998 (1998.26.1) Photo by Blair Clark © Sarah Charlesworth Estate

Homage to Nature (from the series Doubleworld)

Artist: Sarah Charlesworth (American, 1947 - 2013)
Date: 1995
Medium: dye bleach print
Dimensions:
Image: 52 x 42 in. (132.1 x 106.7 cm)
Frame: 56 x 47 x 2 in. (142.2 x 119.4 x 5.1 cm)
Classification: Photograph
Credit Line: Jane Reese Williams Collection, Gift of Bobbie Foshay, 1998
Keywords and Associated Locations:
Object number: 1998.26.1
Description
A bell jar is a glass chamber that produces a controlled interior environment that over the years has had various associations. It was a Victorian means of displaying a collectible that imparted that object's value by isolating it, while simultaneously creating a barrier from dust, damage, and the occasional clumsy viewer. It is a nurturing space where something fragile from the natural world might grow. It was a stifling enclosure for the protagonist of Sylvia Plath's 1963 novel, The Bell Jar. And it is part of the scientific lexicon, used in laboratories to conduct experiments involving, for example, a vacuum. Whatever its function, the bell jar makes what is within untouchable, just beyond our physical (and perhaps also our intellectual) reach. Sarah Charlesworth's photograph Homage to Nature employs the bell jar as an instrument of seeing that offers a critical look at the medium of photography. The role of the bell jar in Charlesworth's photograph is to encapsulate a miniaturized nature, a rarefied specimen to be peered at through the glass bubble that surrounds it. With the bell jar and the rich velvet drapery backdrop, the image is decidedly Victorian in its "aura." Homage to Nature is part of Charlesworth's series Doubleworld, in which she used as still-life props 19th-century optical tools such as a telescope, a large-format camera, or a stereopticon. In this context, Homage to Nature is an invitation to see. In the mid-19th century, when perception was being shaped by these instruments of seeing, and photography revolutionized optics and visual culture, the bell jar drew the viewer in to examine the object within. The reflection of the artist's studio in the glass dome of Homage to Nature insists on the viewer's consciousness of his or her own act of looking.
Not on view
Publication and Exhibition History: Exhibit: Sarah Charlesworth: A Retrospective, November 1, 1997 – January 25, 1998, SITE Santa Fe. Exhibit: 20/20: Twentieth Century Photographic Acquisitions, February 4 - August 13, 2000, New Mexico Museum of Art. Exhibit: Idea Photographic, October 11, 2002- April 14, 2003, New Mexico Museum of Art.