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Photographer Ellen Kooi at PPOW Gallery

The work of Dutch photographer Ellen Kooi is as dramatic as it is mysterious. Like her previous work, Kooi’s latest set of photographs, “Out of Sight,” is set in a variety of natural landscapes in the Netherlands. These images are over-saturated and hyperreal, often highlighting the struggle between man and nature. A small group of people pick their way across bleak terrain or a solitary figure fights with or acquiesces to the mysterious forces of nature. She favors highly stylized scenes with a single child or adolescent, always in a desolate landscape – a forest, a swamp, a prairie.

Kooi has a background in theater, so it’s not surprising that she constructs elaborate exterior lighting arrangements, essentially turning a natural environment into a set. The resulting images bring to mind fairytales, movies or dreams set in familiar yet unknown places. She plays with childhood memories and motifs with imagery reminiscent of “Little Red Riding Hood.” She also makes art historical references, particularly to Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.” Both are beautiful worlds in which danger lurks around every corner and disaster seems destined to strike. But Kooi lets the viewer live in those uncertain moments just before doom, when the fantasy is still real.

Out of Sight” runs from May 19 – June 18, 2011 at PPOW Gallery