Paul Anthony Melhado:
HOW WE USE LAND
As a photographer, my concerns have always revolved around examining the identity of things, more specifically identifying qualities inherent to the human condition as often reflected in our environment. This has been a reoccurring theme throughout my career as an artist, which has been represented in previous bodies of work completed in the last 10 years. In previous landscape work, such as the 'Queens County Parks' portfolio, I presented a landscape that was as much about place as it was about challenging the perceptions of urban parkland. I projected through this series an archetype of the urban park that was closer to the wilderness landscape of Denali and Yosemite Valley than of a busy metropolitan suburb.
In this body of work, How We Use Land, my interest is in the representation of Landscape not as a place but as an object, a material we shape in ways that reflect our concerns. The work does not attempt to criticize the utilization of land in the urban environment, but instead poses the question of how is land best used? A decidedly apolitical, non-judgmental approach to the visual document, this project began as an attempt to demonstrate how land is used in one specific urban environment (Queens County). It has since moved towards more universal interpretations of man’s relationship with the environment. The question is as much about how land is used in the urban environment as it is about how the psychological condition of a civilization is reflected in the landscape. This is a unique aspect of urban land that makes it infinitely more diverse than the great unspoiled wilderness, to the extent that there remains such a thing.
There are few places in this country where the diversity among people, nature and industry is more intertwined than here in the county of Queens, considered one of the most densely populated diverse boroughs in the most densely populated diverse city in America. Queens presents the ultimate challenge to the natural landscape. A place of contradictions and extremes, Queens is a suburb of homes, large businesses and majestic landscapes. It is a place where single family homes and skyscrapers coexist side by side, where playgrounds are framed by the smokestacks of industrial factories and where the most beautiful and majestic wild spaces flourish yards away from busy highways. In Queens, it seems that every manner in which man explores and exploits the land is in full effect. Every square inch of this borough is property, valued by its individual owner as perhaps the most endearing and resilient of assets. Signs throughout this borough proclaiming 'Land for Sale' and 'Land Wanted', affirms the intrinsic value of the land.
In this portfolio the landscape is the subject used to explore ways in which our identity as 'Queenslanders' is projected onto the outside world: landscape as a distant surface, landscape as the physical manifestation of our being. That is the thesis for which this body of work supplies evidence.
Paul Anthony Melhado