Walking down Mass Ave. in Cambridge, I was surprised to see that the venue for which I searched was not, as expected, a coffeeshop or bar, but rather a menswear boutique. Clearly not a very careful reading of the google page on which I had pulled up directions. Inside was the artist’s reception for Steve Bennett’s H2O Extremes. The photos, taken during various travels within and without the United States offer different takes on the ways in which water (or the lack thereof) shapes a place. On one side of the store, desert landscapes from the American west present us with a stark lack of water. Opposite, glaciers in Iceland mirror these arid images. Here, the entire landscape is made of water, but, in its frozen form, it seems just as inaccessible: a desert of a different kind.
Of note is Bennett’s use of color. The dry deserts, so often presented in vibrant reds and earthy oranges, are printed in black and white. He lets the glaciers’ color shine instead, with icy blues and gleaming whites on full display. What then separates these two groups of images (the titular extremes of H2O) is not necessarily the presence of water, but rather the colors in which it is allowed to exist. So rarely are bodies of water truly blue, but the glacial landscape, more solid than any ocean has ever been, is actually a great blue sea, and Bennett allows this fact to remind to remind us that a barren, inhospitable landscape can be made of freezing water as easily as burning sand.
Offsetting this photographic conversation are the colors of the store’s merchandise. The blues and earth tones of the suits and silk ties act as an extension of Bennett’s work, presenting the beauty of the natural world in the stylings of a manmade suit. Once again, Bennett puts nature and civilization in context with each other in an environment that adorns his work as much as his photographs embellish it.
See stevebennett.com for more on Steve’s work.