"Many of us have been overtaken by conditions that obscure why places (and the past in them) should matter. Some of us prefer not to remember that past at all. It would be a good thing if we did.
William Leach, Country of Exiles
Sarah Lyon's photographs depict locales in Louisville. From the banks of the Ohio River to the parking lot of a redundant movie theater complex, they contain the residue of an industrial and urban environment that once was vibrant. Where figures appear, they hover between chance encounter and being staged, each posed by the artist in environments that now seem void of community.
Lyon's images suggest a wasteland, a melancholic reminder left by the emptying out of American cities that has accompanied the building of expressways and sprawling suburbs across the United States. They could be anywhere throughout the rustbelt of the Midwest, with its surplus of abandoned urban geography. They represent a landscape that results from the freedom to continually move on, where a desire for the new is nourished by the vast tracts of land that are available for seemingly unrestricted housing and industrial developments. They are the discarded sites of an economy that is obsessed with consumption and whose excesses show no regard for history or memory.
Evoking something lost, these images also act as a testament to a living landscape, to the changing sense of place that accompanies these locations. For while the middle classes of America drive their SUVs perpetually outward from the city, devouring more space and continually reasserting their individualism, new people come to inhabit these left behind places, people who embrace the city and who seek to revitalize it.
If an awareness of place is based in memory and history, then these images seem to evoke a desire for belonging. Eschewing nostalgia, so that the photograph does not mythologize the past, Lyon evidences history through her intense focus upon the present, where the figures in her pictures become the advocates of the city's potential. These images are charged with the perpetual presentness that is articulated in photography, but it is a presence that is insinuated between the invisible past and future that surrounds each photograph. Suggesting a space of "what was" and "what could be," they become representations of optimism, speaking of the city not as a ghost but as a place that is vital and alive, reinvesting this nowhere with a particularity that makes it somewhere."
-- Julien Robson