Lisa K. Blatt lives and works in San Francisco, but travels around the world to take landscape photographs and videos with a particular focus on deserts, both hot and cold. She often works in extreme climates, having dodged bombs and bullets from gun-wielding locals and once camping on a live volcano in Antarctica where she survived a Condition One storm trapped in her tent for six nights.
These journeys are not undertaken just for the sake of adventure, but to further Blatt’s artistic research. The relationship between sight and site is paramount in this conceptual work. Drawing on her broad interest in light, perception, and the intersection between nature and culture, Blatt’s artwork explores the way landscape is defined not only by what we see, but also by what we don’t see. These invisible determinants take the form of memory, but also of trace elements left by past events. Contrails from stealth planes once flown over the desert sky and explosions at nuclear testing sites give two clear examples of the way memory and traces we don’t immediately perceive are often even combined. Here landscape represents both presence and absence.
When it enables access to difficult-to-reach places, Blatt travels alongside scientists conducting many different kinds of research. In 2005, for example, she camped and worked in the Atacama Desert in Chile for over a month with a scientist team from NASA and Carnegie Mellon. For the Smith Cardiovascular Research Building, Blatt assembled three photographs created while she was a grantee of the National Science Foundation’s Artists and Writers Program in Antarctica in 2008. This specially selected triptych represents three zones in which scientific research is conducted in Antarctica: in the atmosphere, on the ground, and in ice caves, respectively.