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Don Suggs

American
(1945–2019)

Light Girl (Beuys' Ghost)
1996-1997

Gelatin silver prints on wood panel
42.25 x 138.312 in. (107.315 x 351.312 cm)
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation
2012.7

Don Suggs’s nearly twelve-foot-long picture of people at a scenic overlook invites viewers to take a step back from touristic business as usual. Rather than snapping a photo of the panoramic landscape on the other side of the barricade—which is undoubtedly beautiful—Suggs has taken dozens of pictures of tourists who have randomly gathered to see the sights. His wall-size image is so familiar to anyone who has ever visited sightseeing destinations that it takes a few moments to notice its inconsistences—which are radical and fascinating.

What initially appears to be a single shot is in fact many prints that Suggs has carefully collaged together. Sometimes he has lined up the edges to create seamless transitions that suggest both a unified image and single point of view. At other times he has juxtaposed photos that do not fit together or form a coherent whole but instead embody the fragmentary nature of modern life. These compositional irregularities are often minor and easily overlooked, especially when they take place in depictions of clouds, trees, and shadows. But other such “misalignments” are dramatic, resulting in people with missing limbs, mismatched pant legs, out-of-scale appendages, and torsos that function like windows. One, in the center of the image, opens onto a view of a stunning waterfall. To its right, another reveals a silhouette of a man in a hat resembling German artist Joseph Beuys, whose works also insist that there is more to reality than immediately meets the eye.

Elaborating upon that idea, Light Girl (Beuys’s Ghost) exploits photography’s capacity to capture both appearance and reality, fact and fiction, illusion and truth. Getting us to observe our surroundings while observing ourselves observing them, Suggs’s multilayered picture transforms an otherwise unremarkable scenario into a participatory experience that opens our eyes and our minds to some of the mysteriousness of everyday life.

David Pagel


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