“The space of the country. The wilderness of the nature. The extraordinary beauty or melancholy of the landscapes.” Photographer Esther Voisin says these visceral sources of inspiration animate her striking, sparse depictions of modern America. Taken during her own travels, her photos will feel familiar to anyone who’s embarked on a long, cross-country road trip, relishing the freedom and loneliness of endless highways.
Voisin’s art evokes a certain reverence for the most mundane elements of American life, like run-down road signs or a glass of water on a diner table. Her work is unvarnished, poetic in its ordinariness. Voisin says she is interested in “the secretive and serene forces of the everyday subjects,” and the photos breathe imaginative new life into the sorts of objects, places and even people many of us tend to ignore.
Voisin’s images are inextricably tied to their setting, creating a modern kind of Americana through “still-frame” images. Voisin is French, but she has lived in Brazil and the U.S. since 2002. The quiet compositions portray the feelings of a stranger finding inspiration in a place they didn’t originally call home. For me, the isolation of the photos felt deeply melancholy. Voisin, however, offered an alternate interpretation: she said her photos conjure “aloneness, which means for me to retrieve, observe, to feel good without the need of something else.” The isolation in her images juxtapose stark beauty and quiet strength.
Though Voisin’s photographs may seem simple, her influences are wide-ranging, from the avant-garde jazz of John Coltrane to the experimental works of French New Wave filmmakers to the road trip mythologies of Jack Kerouac. The fingerprints of these artists are apparent in her own work—they share a willingness to play with form, a careful observance of small details and an interest in artistic and personal independence.
Her work, which often depicts the “freedom and adventures” of the American West, is a natural fit for Modern West. Voisin said she has been a fan of Modern West since she moved to Utah two years ago, and now she is displaying her work through the gallery’s Artist in Residence program. Modern Wests hosts up to four artists in residence every year. “The mission of the gallery is to support established and emerging artists and to create a space for others to be inspired, to learn, and to collaborate,” says Shalee Cooper, Director at Modern West. Voisin has been the Artist in Residence since Jan. 12, and she will be displaying some of her developing work at a show on Feb. 19.
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