Before reading anything about Jordan Sullivan's latest body of work, The Young Earth, I took a look through the Los Angeles-based writer and artist's exhibition gallery. I saw hazy landscapes of various terrain that appear as if they might have been pulled from a dream, or a nostalgic memory, sometimes occupied by two men, possibly friends, or a single male; images of a young, blonde woman interspersed amongst them. Her face is obscured, except when she appears indoors, nude, confronting the camera with eye contact and a blithe smile. My out-of-the-gate interpretation of the work was that maybe her body was serving as some kind of metaphor for the landscapes. But of course it was about something beyond what a lazy reading would suggest. I read on and found out that Sullivan is a story teller, and The Young Earth is his latest photo-illustrated novella, published by Peter Hay Halpert Fine Art. The artist's statement explains:
"The Young Earth is a photo series and accompanying photonovel set in Iceland. The story follows two Americans in the last days of their twenties, one them terminally ill, as they explore one of the youngest bodies of land in the world. The young men attempt to reconnect with the natural world while confronting their own mortality and a past love triangle that briefly dissolved their friendship. The Young Earth is a meditation on death, the end of youth, and the beauty and complications that come with love and friendship."
I like this visual approach to story-telling (never mind the stunningly beautiful photography) that is so rare in fiction for adults. With regards to the work as a photo series, I also like having the opportunity to be led by the artist through a detailed narrative, rather than attempting to navigate an ambiguous work which sometimes just doesn't connect despite best intentions on both sides. Sullivan takes us on a visceral trip, and allows us to have our own vivid, personal experience with it through his winsome imagery.
"Jordan Sullivan: The Young Earth and An Island in the Moon" will be on view at Peter Hay Halpert Fine Art Site 109, at 109 Norfolk Street in Manhattan's Lower East Side through December 7th. The exhibition features a second project, a series of muted, ethereal portraits of people and landscapes inspired by a quote from Peter Matthiessen’s book, The Snow Leopard: "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form."
You can view the The Young Earth photo series here