A Return to the Earth

Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjforth’s series of photographs of elderly people from around the world — called Eyes as Big as Plates — is like nothing we’ve ever seen. The two artists find senior citizens with “marked connection to their natural and cultural roots,” creating totally individualized costumes for them to wear out in nature. The artists say they are “exploring their subject’s mental landscapes, while playing with personifications of nature.” The results have a mythic quality, yet you can also tell the subjects are having fun.

The two interview senior citizens and then find the “organic, scavenged” materials that fit their “interests and activities.” The results from their latest series of photographs in New York City, with residents of the Hamilton-Madison House, City Hall Senior Center in Manhattan, can be seen in a new exhibition in Brooklyn.

Bob, who they met at an Indoor Gardening Society meeting where “he was slipped a little note up his sleeve” letting him know they’d love to hear from him, is utterly transformed.

Another subject, anonymously named X, becomes a figure like Prospero out of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

The photographs play with folklore. “Each figure will present a solitary figure in the landscape, dressed in elements from surroundings that indicate neither time nor place.” The idea is to recall the way in which folklore “animates the natural world through a personification of nature.”

An earlier series, which is particularly powerful, was shot in Sandnes, Norway, in collaboration with “local senior heroes, sailors, retired agronomes and 90-year old parachuters.”

For these artists, incorporating their subjects into these natural landscapes can also create a melancholy beauty. “The slippage of elderly figures into the landscape suggests a return to earth, a celebration of lives lived, reinforcing the link between the human and natural worlds.”

See more photos and be sure to go to their latest exhibition in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which runs until April 24. An evening reception is on Friday, March 22.

Image credits: copyright Riitta Ikonen and Karoline Hjforth

2 thoughts on “A Return to the Earth

  1. scientiste 03/22/2013 / 10:38 am

    Reblogged this on Mental Flowers and commented:
    This is a great exercise in demonstrating a connection to one’s environment, plus it’s fun! And a great example of how you’re never too old to be playful and maybe a little silly.

  2. Liz Pulver 03/27/2013 / 9:19 am

    This makes my day! Great stuff- thank you. LP

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