2009 Winners - Runner-up: Mark Lyon
Mark Lyon’s series Landscapes for People is organized around a simple hook — photographic wallpapers in situ — but the resulting images are strangely riveting and visually disorienting. These wall-sized murals feature sterotypical nature images of ür-beauty: pristine forests, waterfalls, mountains, brightly colored flowers in full bloom — in other words, classically kitsch representations of the picturesque. Most frequently found in functional spaces — waiting rooms, dentist offices, laundromats, baggage claims — these murals extend a false promise of escape from the tediousness of the actual space and task at hand. Lyon’s images give the flat plane of the wallpaper center stage in each image, effectively creating a mash-up of 2D and 3D space. The flatness of the natural vistas stands in sharp contrast to the details of objects from the physical realm that intrude, just barely, into the edges of the image frame. The viewer is invited to consider the beautiful scenery, but the eye slides across the smooth surface of the ostensible subject of the photograph (the landscape) and is captured instead by the mundane details jutting into the frame — X-ray machines, electrical wires, and conveyor belts — or is rebuffed by the visible seams of the wallpaper, the reflection of the camera flash.
Lyon describes his project as a documentation of “the strange play of the functional environment and the ideal psychological landscape.” It’s also an enjoyable meta-meditation on the inescapable presence of the photographic image in our lives; the disconcerting pull that an idealized image exerts on our eye despite being identifiably fictitious; and the unexpected pleasure that comes from being drawn into these contemporary trompe-l’oeils.