For over two decades, my work has focused on how humans shape and represent the landscape whether in formal gardens, colossal vivaria, landscape painting, or a hand-planted forest. My current work, Field Guide to a Hybrid Landscape foregrounds the impact of our decisions, past and present, to exploit, protect, or restore our environment.
Field Guide… traces the evolution of the Nebraska National Forest through photographs that make visible the forces that shaped this unique landscape over time (sand/wind/water, planting, thinning, burning, decomposing, and sowing.) Once the world’s largest hand-planted forest, this hybrid landscape of conifers in semi-arid grassland was an ambitious late 19th century idea to create a timber industry, reclaim a “disordered” and “unproductive” landscape, and change the local climate. In 1891, the first federal nursery was established to produce the trees for the forest and for plains homesteads. The Nebraska National Forest at Halsey was officially established in 1902 and now includes over 31 square miles of trees. Historical fire suppression and misguided plantings, (some never taking hold, others that have become invasive,) present relentless management challenges. The nursery now produces replacement seedlings for burned and beetle-damaged National Forests in the Rocky Mountain region as well as the Nebraska Conservation Trees Program. This unique landscape of row-crop trees protected from the natural cycle of fire for decades, yet never commercially harvested, provides a rich metaphor for our current environmental predicaments. With a 21st century focus on conservation, grassland restoration, and native reforestation, the Nebraska National Forest is a case study for evolution in approach to climate change.
Dana Fritz is Hixson-Lied Professor of Art in the School of Art, Art History & Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Through photography, she investigates the ways we shape and represent the natural world in cultivated and constructed landscapes. Her honors include an Arizona Commission on the Arts Fellowship, a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange to Japan, and a Society for Photographic Education Imagemaker Award. Fritz’s work has been exhibited widely including at the Phoenix Art Museum, Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and the Sheldon Museum of Art in the U.S. International venues include Museum Belvédère in The Netherlands, Château de Villandry in France, Xi’an Jiaotong University Art Museum in China, and Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Place M, and Nihonbashi Institute of Contemporary Arts in Japan. Her work is held in several collections including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Bryn Mawr College Special Collections, Pennsylvania; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona; the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art; and Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Fritz has been awarded artist residencies at locations known for their significant cultural histories and gardens or unique landscapes: Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California; Château de Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany, France; Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona; PLAYA in Summer Lake, Oregon; Cedar Point Biological Station, Nebraska; and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts in Saratoga, Wyoming. University of New Mexico Press published her monograph, Terraria Gigantica: The World under Glass, in 2017.