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The American Made Alphabet Perfect Paperback – May 5, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

America the Beautiful and the Altered, From on High by GRACE GLUECK for the New York Times. What have we done to the American landscape? Farmed and gardened it, but also plastered it with strip mines. Created parks, but also ugly industrial sites. Crisscrossed it with pleasant rural roads, but also railroad tracks and six-lane highways. Built great cities, which generate enormous waste dumps. Flying over it at 1,000 feet in a helicopter, the Boston photographer Margot Balboni has seen, and shot, man-made attractions and eyesores scattered over the country from a spectacular perspective not available to groundlings. As a documentarian, she remains neutral, describing her work in a recent artists forum held at the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland, Me., as an aerial exploration of the uneasy tension between the natural landscape and the sprawl of industry, agriculture, suburbia, city and the roads connecting all together. In The American-Made Alphabet, her current show at the Farnsworth, she presents 26 striking color photographs, made over the last two decades, in the form of an alphabet. A stands, wryly, for Art, a shot of an installation of 10 half-buried Cadillacs in the grassland of a ranch in Amarillo, Tex. B is for Big Dig, a look at the huge casting basin where concrete sections were built for the notorious $14.7 billion tunnel system that buried Boston s central artery. C stands for Circular Burn, a crop field in Texas made circular for irrigation purposes, being burned at the end of its production to add nitrogen to the soil. And so on. Occasionally the photographs are accompanied by aeronautical maps marking natural and human hazards in the area, used here to orient viewers to locations. Some of the flyover shots reveal benignly artificial pleasantries dotting the land, like Park, a beautifully wrought recreation area on a tiny island in Latrobe, Pa., set like a jewel in a body of dark green water surrounded by masses of verdant trees and shrubs. And there is Retirement, the Powder Horn golf course in Big Horn, Wyo., which lies, with subtle gradations in tone and texture created by its gentle hills, swards and sand traps, like a relief sculpture on the basically flat terrain. An auto junkyard in Mont Alto, Pa., is a dramatic contrast, with a maggotlike swarm of dead cars forming what looks like a giant lesion on a desolate patch of brown earth. A more complicated wound is formed by the zigzag maze of a strip mine crawling up a peak in Hyder, Ariz. Flat, monotonously barren fields in Vaughn, N.M., are enlivened by a long, curving snake of a train that winds through them. Private dwellings are not neglected. Yard gives a glimpse of a regal-looking mansion and its setting in Newport, R.I., with regimented flower beds offset by three speedboats casually drawn up on an expanse of lawn. Neighborhood goes downscale, showing rows of cookie-cutter houses on narrow lots in Linden, N.J., many accompanied by circular above-ground pools. The most intriguing is Home, a sprawling, flat-roofed structure with scraps of green lawn and mandatory pool, but sitting alone in the Arizona desert, surrounded by myriad cactus plants. A scattering of ice-fishing shacks on pristine snow in Maine, a giant sombrero towering over a tourist trap in South Carolina and an oil derrick unexpectedly protruding from a dry, empty expanse in Oklahoma are some of the other stops on the tour. The surreality of the American landscape is on full view in these vivid photographs, a landscape in which our civilization, for better or worse, is stamped. --New York Times 8/24/07 --Grace Glueck, New York Times 8/24/07

Margot Balboni is a great photographer with an imaginative and original perspective of our life on earth. Fred Wiseman, Documentary Film Maker --Fred Wiseman, Documentary Film Maker

About the Author

Margot Balboni, has worked as a documentary photographer for twenty-five years both on assignment and on independent projects. She has flown in a helicopter at an altitude of 1,000 feet back and forth across the country, photographed the Tahitian black pearl industry, and has spent the last fifteen years flying over and crawling through the tunnels of the BIG DIG documenting the transformation of Boston. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally and published in books and magazines.

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The American Made Alphabet
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