Judy Natal


Judy Natal is a professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago and the author of EarthWords, published in 2004, and Neon Boneyard Las Vegas A-Z, published in 2006. Her photographs are in the permanent public collections of the California Museum of Photography, Riverside California; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona; the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Illinois; the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France; and the Museum of Art, Sao Paolo, Brazil; among others. Her work has been exhibited at Projects International, New York, New York; Photograph Gallery, New York, New York; the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri; the Kathleen Ewing Gallery, Washington, DC; and the Sao Paulo Biennal, Brazil; among others. She has receive numerous grants and fellowships, including a Fulbright Travel Grant, two Illinois Arts Council Photography Fellowships, Polaroid grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts Photography Fellowships. Natal has also been awarded numerous artist residences at Light Work, Syracuse, New York; Museo D'Electragraphia, Cuenca, Spain; and Joshua Tree National Park, Twenty Nine Palms, California.

Scientists and artists share a love for creative work, and their ways of exploring the world around us intersect in many ways. The B2 Institute Artist in Residence Program brings together artists and scientists to promote their interaction. We are proud to welcome our first artist in residence, Judy Natal, to that program.

Future Perfect Project Synopsis

In my recent work Future Perfect, I photograph nature as it is today, inseparable from us, and like us, in turmoil. I examine how distinctions are blurring between natural environments and human-made landscapes, as we recycle our longing for nature in it’s pristine state into models defined by science and technology, in tandem with humankind’s past experiences and future needs, to create alternate worlds.

Publications of my work EarthWords (2004), and Neon Boneyard Las Vegas A-Z, (2006), portray my continued interest in exploring the transformations of the desert West and Southwest. In Future Perfect I continue to utilize the desert as metaphor of an extreme environment teetering between extinction and sustainability. From January to May 2007, I regularly traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to photograph a site called The Springs Preserve as it was being constructed. A unique collaboration between the publicly held Las Vegas Valley Water District and the privately funded Springs Preserve Foundation, The Springs is a 180 acre, non-gaming site just three miles off the famous Las Vegas Strip, pinpointing the original Las Vegas Springs, making it both a cultural and historical attraction. It is also an example of visionary leadership for a sustainable future, consisting of seven new green buildings utilizing LEED construction.

I photographed The Springs Preserve as it moved from the chaos of construction to the gridded, highly designed, and seamless completion of opening day. The photographs depict, with transparency, the fabrication of environments that ultimately appear natural. It is my intent to seek out sites where this process of chaos has been repeatedly transformed.

I am interested in drawing a complex picture of what a model city of the 21st Century might look like as it balances issues of sustainability of natural resources and ecological systems with building hybrid future cultures. Though Las Vegas has transformed the desert landscape that it is in the midst of, it continues metaphorically to resonate the desert’s psychological traits—improbably harsh, both oasis and mirage. To continue this work, I am seeking out sites that fabricate nature, not through duplication but simulation as the modeling of natural and human systems, in order to gain insight into their functioning.