Imaginative, versatile, and a master of concept, Brooke Shaden is a fine art photographer specializing in staged photography that combines allegorical symbolism with personal narrative. Utilizing props as well as commonplace objects, Shaden transforms the world around her into compelling, intricate dreamscapes that combine the strange with the familiar. JoAnne Artman Gallery is pleased to present Brooke Shaden’s new body of work that explores notions of permanence, survival, as well as the classic theme of man versus nature.

In her new series, Shaden portrays a dystopian future, emphasizing the improbable odds of humankind in the face of the vastness of nature. Yet despite some of the darker elements, the tone of Shaden’s new body of work maintains a sense of optimism and a playful lightness. Aptly titled, Begin Again depicts a rebirth of self. Alluding to a reimagined future, reevaluated preconceptions, and a reinvention of the artistic process, Shaden thoroughly explores the idea of renewal. Culminating in an expressive awakening, her photographs embody an alternate reality of surrealism and fantasy where the disturbing is made beautiful.

Shaden’s definition of her medium is both candid and pragmatic. According to her, “fine art is simply defined as personal work, something you do for yourself.” This directness is evident in her approach, and enables her to fully immerse herself in her practice, creating stunningly surreal, compelling images rooted in personal investigation. Shaden’s surrealism is based in reality and filtered through personal experience. Tonally and thematically, the work is evocative of the drama, palette, and representations of the sublime in nature of late 18th century Romanticism. The impactful, alluringly disconcerting compositions are created through fundamental changes to everyday objects resulting in uncanny, extraordinary images and stories. Shaden shapes the world to her vision utilizing only natural, practical lighting, and builds the final image via a layering process. In past explorations, Shaden’s work has posed probing questions of our collective anxieties, dreams, and nightmares. The imagery is often allegorical as well as visceral, seductive, and instantly relatable.

One of the main themes is the eternal struggle of survival, of human nature versus mother nature, of the fragility of human life and the endurance of human spirit. Allusions to this classic theme abound throughout the work, evoking ancient stories, myths, and records on the subject of the human condition. In a famous quote from As You Like It by Shakespeare the state of the human condition is presented: “All the world’s a stage; And all the men and women merely players.” In the same spirit, Shaden’s dreamscapes can be seen as the fashioning of a new reality, a means of taking control of life’s uncertainties and anxieties.