Rhetorical Landscapes is a presentation of new political collages and landscape photos by Los Angeles artist Catherine Opie. The exhibition features large-scale photography and stop-motion animations, examining our current political and ecological climate of the Okefenokee swamp through magazine clippings and digital collages of photos. These works create portraits of contemporary America-plagued by the divisions and violent rhetoric used by the current government and facing imminent ecological destruction due to climate change, which in particular poses a threat to the Opie wetlands here.
In this work, Opie continues her scrutiny of American identity by exploring the current natural and political environment. The “Rhetorical Landscape” photograph depicts the Okefenokee swamp found in southern Georgia and northern Florida. At first glance, each image looks like a dense emerald green landscape, but upon closer inspection, these photos reveal unique attributes-an owl staring at the viewer from the center of the composition, or a half crocodile submerged in a swamp Blackwater-shows that lives often invisible in these endangered spaces are in danger. For Opie, the swamp symbolizes the severe environmental and human vulnerability caused by climate change, ecological protection issues, and the Trump administration’s destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency. This depiction of the swamp also implies the general term “drain” used by the current administration, which refers to “eliminating” the long-standing corruption within the US government. Opie said that the swamp is a peaceful ecosystem because of the very real corruption that has only begun to appear in the past four years, it does not need to be drained, but it itself faces serious risks.