Dave Hebb: This Land Is My Land

Dave Hebb is a visual artist and educator working primarily with photography and video. He lives and works in the Catskill region ofNew York State, which often serves as the background and subject for his investigation of the landscape as personal metaphor. His work explores the relationship between the individual and the natural environment as mediated through memory, technology and post-industrial infrastructure. His work has been exhibited regionally, nationally and internationally in various venues across Europe, most recently in a three-person show at ArtLaboratory Berlin, (Berlin, Germany, 2012) and two consecutive solo shows atCOOP gallery (Nashville, TN, 2010-11). Recentnotable accolades include a Fulbright Fellowship in Iceland where he created asculptural installation (1997-8) and being selected to participate in the New YorkFoundation for the Arts’ MARK program (2010). 

This Land Is My Land: The Hudson Valley has a long andcomplicated history that illustrates the competition between the needs ofagriculture, industry, tourism and the desire to preserve the natural beauty ofthe landscape. The region was praised by the 19th century artists and writers as an Arcadian paradise and many areas were protected and set aside for public use. However, during the late 20th century, economics began to shift and land use continued to evolve. Most luxury hotels, farms and industries were abandoned to make way for new ways of life and the forest slowly began to reclaim the remnants of a forgotten past. On the surface, the complexity of the 21st century way of life barely resembles the past, and yet there are clues in the landscape that refer to this struggle between competing public and private interests. The very idea of land ownership itself is at the heart of this conflict. 

I’ve lived on and off in the Hudson Valley for nearly 25 years, and have been a homeowner several times over. However, the more experience I gain with land ownership, the less I seem to understand it.  I’ve witnessed my own relationship to the land shift from romantic reverence to selfish coveting to indifferent utility and back again many times and have also observed the same complex contradictory feelings in my friends and neighbors. By documenting the evolving scenes from my everyday life, I am trying to reconcile my own relationship to the land as I struggle maintain a home and rural lifestyle.  The scenes I photograph are hidden in plain sight, often transient and easily dismissed, and yet they are the most concrete evidence of how changing behavior and attitudes, both individual and collective, can transform the landscape and shape consciousness. Although we believe that land can be owned and controlled by us, we also witness how nature itself can degrade and destroy even our most monumental efforts to build and maintain our own living environments.

View more of Dave Hebb’s photographic works on his website.