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Image of Chopped Tree

Oscar Palacio , b. Jan 2, 1970

Chopped Tree

19 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. (50 x 60 cm)

Medium and Support: Chromogenic print
Credit Line: gift of Stephen T. Kunian (PA 1956)
Accession Number: 2016.35


Oscar Palacio’s dark and haunting images capture the homely details and moldering fragments of ordinary surroundings, while investing them with a hushed sense of mystery and significance. Born in Medellin, Colombia, Palacio, has described the act of photographing as a way to orient himself within an alien culture. It is this ambiguous role of being a resident outsider that enables him to see what familiarity renders invisible for most of us. Teetering somewhere between the knowable and unknowable, Palacio’s photographs point out the subtle oddities of daily life and reveal the unexpected harmonies and delicate beauty in the everyday visual clutter that we often overlook.
Navigating city streets and sidewalks Palacio often focuses his camera on the overlapping intersection of the natural and the constructed. Fences and other kinds of barriers and boundaries figure strongly in these images, revealing a constant push and pull between the presumably natural world and the human-made constructions that attempt to resist or banish it.
Far more than clichéd depictions of the battle between man and nature, these photographs reveal that, for all our attempts to establish clear and inviolable borderlines between “civilization” and “nature,” the two worlds are inextricably connected, communicative, and generative. In these photographs, seemingly disparate parts of the composition—both organic and inorganic—turn out to be all of a piece, part of a creative force that is constantly shifting and reforming, as is evidenced in the almost comically shifting relationship of fence and tree in Chopped Tree, (2001). The barrier between the organic and inorganic, nature and culture, is, if not completely illusory, then an extremely thin and porous membrane, one that—as Palacio’s photographs show us—dissolves with the slightest pressure or sustained gaze.

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