"Appearance is something absolute, but reality is not that way." –Dalai Lama
It is often said that photographs capture moments in time. They document events, tell stories, impart information, and prove up facts—all because they appear real. Certainly people tend to view photographs as naturalistic, true-to-life representations of the world as it appeared before the lens when they were taken. Shawn Saumell plays with this notion and explores the way we perceive reality through the medium of photography.
Over a year-and-a-half in the making, Shawn’s latest work is a series called Ascension that explores perception, reality, and existence. What might appear at first glance to be straightforward photographs of doll-like figures arranged in naturalistic settings are actually much more. Humanoid mannequins interact with each other in fantastical landscapes that were researched, designed, sculpted from various materials, assembled from found objects, painted, composed, and then photographed. Hyperreal detail and surreal imagery combine to present scenes that are layered with symbolism inspired by rich and varied sources, including Fibonacci, Hieronymus Bosch, Edgar Allan Poe, Jan Van der Straet, Jean Baudrillard, Theodor Geisel, Plato, Gustave Dore, Dante Alighieri, CS Lewis, Peter Bruegel, ancient history, literature, theology, psychology, and philosophy. The resulting narratives and meta-narrative are left to the viewers’ interpretation.
Shawn obtained his BFA from Texas Woman’s University, magna cum laude, and his MFA from Lesley University College of Art and Design fka The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. He is one of the Top 50 MFA Painters in 2010, as well as a finalist for the Hunting Art Prize. His numerous international awards include, Director’s Choice, First Place, Best of Show, and Photographer of the Year. He has shown in museums and galleries throughout the United States (and internationally), he has appeared in numerous publications, and his work is in the collections of the Boston Public Library, Boston, MA; the Limner Gallery, Hudson, NY; Shah Alam Gallery, Malaysia; Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO; and the Mulafoco Museum, Uruguay.