Susan Moldenhauer’s sweeping meditation on the Trump administration is deceptively beautiful, with images as soaring as the western skies she resides under, but when paired with words, the images are empowered with purpose. A photograph dated May 2, 2020 shows only a hint of earth—terra firma as gatekeeper to a sky that looks like it could go on forever. The embedded words on her canvas—April Was Death. April Was Hope. April Was Cruel—mirror an image that contains clear sky, impending storm, and the storm itself. April, the first full month of quarantine, of masks, of misinformation, and lies about a global health crisis, was all of those things. We heard about our first responders dying, we were hopeful for a vaccine, and we were played for suckers by politicians who contradicted their own public health officials.
The entire series begins with an image taken the night before Trump’s inauguration titled Sunset on the Obama Administration. She follows each year, or season as she christens them, and presents us here with Season IV, each image produced after the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic began in America.
When she combines the words of Donald Trump with her images, they take on dystopian dimensions. A photo depicting a cloud darkening into an arrow pointed downward to a solitary farm, puny in its relationship to the sky above it, carries foreboding. Moldenhauer collapses any sense of a Calvary coming to save the day with words from Trump that are so compact in their narcissism, ignorance, and caprice, that they offer no hope: I Have Done A Tremendous Job. There Are Still More People Alive Than Dead!
These images should be viewed larger than can be shown here, but I picture them almost as murals, like a window onto the High Plains, striking us in awe with our insignificance in the landscape.
The impact of this series lies in the lyrical combination of words and images to create a poetry as dark as Edgar Allan Poe ever imagined. Poe died of “acute congestion of the brain.” America’s fate awaits, as we enter another campaign season. I pray that Moldenhauer’s next inauguration photo is a sunrise.
Just over three years ago, Donald Trump became the President of the United States. His election was a shock to many and I was compelled to respond to convey my own deep concern for our collective future. The evening before his inauguration, I began this series of images made primarily from my home on the high plains of southeast Wyoming. The first image, Sunset on the Obama Administration, began a personal journey of emotional responses to what has become a story of the greatest challenge to our democratic way of life in American history. The series is titled View from Home.
In this work, I combine my iPhone images with national, international, and occasionally personal events, actions, and quotes that are captured within a day of each other. The relationship between image and text explores the ‘space between’ — visually, emotionally, and metaphorically. Collectively, the series is a diaristic sequence presented in order by date. With this administration, America is altered through new policies that are self-devouring those things we hold dear — our land, our people, our resources, and our way of life — our values, our culture, our society, and our status in the world, all in the name of power.
The series is organized by year, beginning with the date of the inauguration. The years are called Seasons, a reference to the reality TV nature of this administration. The titles are an inseparable part of the image and presented together. The images that follow are from View from Home | Season IV and selected from images made since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am producing this series in a set of four publications, one for each year of the current administration. I anticipate these will be volumes that are smaller in scale with intimate images that can be considered at arm’s length. The draft mock up of View from Home |Season I is handmade with original prints.
-Susan Moldenhauer May 2020
Susan Moldenhauer explores place through image-making that embraces the landscape as a foundational element, seeks aesthetic and poetic experiences, and questions how to make sense of the world in the split-second magic of photography. Her approach embraces the tradition of composing at the moment of exposure. Her lyrical work evokes the synthesis of light, darkness, movement and moment.
Moldenhauer is a photographer, arts administrator, curator, artist advocate, and community leader who has worked to advance artists and the arts throughout her career. In 2017, she retired as Director & Chief Curator of the University of Wyoming Art Museum after 33 years of administrative and curatorial work. She co-founded artist and public art projects and continues to participate in these efforts. She is one-third of an artist-photographer-dancer partnership called Sequencing Through Time and Place, a creative collaboration that is place-based projects.
Moldenhauer received her MFA from Penn State University and BFA from Northern Illinois University. She is a recipient of the 2017 Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award and the 2016 Wyoming Visual Artist Fellowship. She has a national exhibition record and is represented in numerous public collections. Moldenhauer lives and works in Laramie, Wyoming.