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Book Review: An Everchanging Monument


Book Review An Everchanging Monument By Christina Capetillo Reviewed by Alexandra Huddleston The seasonal narrative in Christina Capetillo's An Everchanging Monument begins in winter when snow-covered ground and grey skies allow the barren hedges to form intricate, lacy silhouettes that emphasize the rigid, geometric landscaping. We barely notice that the photographs are in black and white until late spring brings forth a harsher sunlight and dandelions scatter across the carefully manicured lawns.

An Everchanging MonumentBy Christina Capetillo.
Aristo Publishing, 2012.
 
An Everchanging Monument
Reviewed by Alexandra Huddleston

An Everchanging Monument: A photographic narrative about The Musical Gardens by Carl Theodor Sørensen
By Christina Capetillo
Aristo Publishing, 2012. 80 pp., 65 black & white illustrations, 11¼x11".


The seasonal narrative in Christina Capetillo's An Everchanging Monument begins in winter when snow-covered ground and grey skies allow the barren hedges to form intricate, lacy silhouettes that emphasize the rigid, geometric landscaping. We barely notice that the photographs are in black and white until late spring brings forth a harsher sunlight and dandelions scatter across the carefully manicured lawns. The hedges and lawns photographed are The Musical Gardens by renowned Danish modernist landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen.

By summer we begin to notice the second narrative device at play: that of a walking journey through this garden of tall hedges. It’s not until summer that the camera brings the viewer into the interior of the leafy topiaries. By autumn, fallen leaves break the rigid order of the modernist design, and the camera is so immersed in the garden that sometimes the frame is filled with twigs and leaves. The work finally abandons its veneer of documentation for the feeling of the human experience, and for the first time the viewer can almost feel the sunlight and touch the leaves.

An Everchanging MonumentBy Christina CapetilloAristo Publishing, 2012.
An Everchanging MonumentBy Christina CapetilloAristo Publishing, 2012.

Carl Theodor Sørensen’s Musical Gardens are considered a highlight of modernist landscape architecture. Many of the aesthetic choices in the book’s creation clearly reference modernism, from Capetillo’s monochrome, square photographs — most of which have very simple, geometric compositions — to the book’s own square format with its gray end pages and straightforward design of 28 pairs of photographs, each image taking-up its entire square page.

An Everchanging MonumentBy Christina CapetilloAristo Publishing, 2012.

The photographs are bookended by a foreword and two essays. Professor Carsten Thau, in his essay, suggests that Capetillo’s work is more influenced by a Romantic approach to landscape than a modernist one. His comments highlight an undercurrent that contradicts the book’s — and perhaps even the garden’s — seemingly modernist aesthetic. The geometry, the simplicity, and the monochrome are constantly called into question by nature’s forces: falling snow, overgrown weeds, mist, and sunlight. We might even imagine that these are photographs of a topiary garden in a royal palace and a plaster Venus or a bronze triton will grace the next frame.

An Everchanging MonumentBy Christina CapetilloAristo Publishing, 2012.

Is it actually impossible to document a modernist garden? In fact, the garden in its current form was built after Sørensen’s death. Every year the hedges grow and every day and every season the garden changes. In harnessing the narrative structure of a walking journey through the season, Capetillo adds a powerful Romantic drama into her photographs and allows the living nature of The Musical Gardens to create its own lively melody within her monochrome documentation.—ALEXANDRA HUDDLESTON

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ALEXANDRA HUDDLESTON was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and grew up in the Washington DC area and in West Africa. She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MS in journalism from Columbia University. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally. Among other honors, she has received a Fulbright Grant, and her prints are in the collections of the US Library of Congress, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and the British Library. Huddleston is the co-founder of the Kyoudai Press publication series with which she has published several works of her own, including Lost Things, 333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship in Timbuktu, and East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage. You can learn more about her work on the following websites:
http://www.alexandrahuddleston.com
http://www.kyoudaipress.com

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