FROM THE ENROLLMENT TO NEW YORK. “This is my way of protesting, let’s hope it does something,” says Priscilla Rattazzi, pointing to the spectacular photographs of Utah that she exhibits at the Staley Wise gallery in New York. Images of a land as remote, as it is surprising, which perhaps surpasses all other landscapes in the United States for its uniqueness. But to understand the deeper meaning of “Hoodooland”, as the exhibition is called, it is necessary to shift attention from the beauty of the images to the story they tell. A story that risks being devastating, for the environment it describes and the men who inhabit it.
“Hoodooland”, meanwhile, refers to the land of the hoodoo, that is, singular columns of soft rock topped by a hat of harder rock. The elements have been sculpted over the centuries, but they look like works of art laid with extreme precision by a careful decorator. They arise in particular in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a national monument of 1,880,461 acres of land created by President Clinton in 1996, and also in the Bears Ears, both in southern Utah.
Priscilla, a successful photographer and author of several books such as “Lula & Lola”, “Georgica Pond”, “Children”, “Best Friends”, “Una Famiglia”, had visited them ten years ago with her three children: ” Nothing prepared us for the vast landscape that unfolded before us on the four-hour drive from Las Vegas. ‘ In 2016, “while adjusting to a combination of empty nest syndrome and post-election despair, I decided to return to Utah to capture the extreme bleak beauty of this otherworldly landscape. When I was planning my trip, on December 4, 2017, President Trump issued a proclamation that he cut the 1.88 million acres of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument almost in half, leaving about 900,000 acres at the mercy of mining. My mood had changed from despair to outrage. I decided to take action immediately ».
Then Priscilla was back in Utah with the legendary guide Yermo Welsh, and her camera to shoot the hoodoos: “I fell in love with them, and I kept photographing them. I then jokingly decided that many of these crazy rock formations look like an army of mystical creatures, and middle fingers sending a penetrating message to Washington. ‘
These images are now exhibited at the Staley Wise Gallery, in order to amplify their ‘penetrating message’. Because it is one thing to read this story on paper or on screen, and another to observe the beauty that Trump’s proclamation threatens to destroy. The New Yorker also dealt with the case in October 2018, with an article by Kathryn Schulz who told the story, underlining its absurdity. Not only for the violated nature, but also for human beings. In fact, the locals made a lot of money from the tourism created by the national monument, while for coal, oil and other minerals that could be mined “there is practically no market.” The impression, as two anonymous members of the administration confided to Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post, is that the president’s only real goal was “to give a shot to his Democratic predecessors.” More: “He saw it as a way of overthrowing and obliterating Obama,” like many of his other domestic and international political decisions.
The question, however, is not yet closed. The Natural Resources Defense Council, five Indian tribes, a coalition of environmental groups, a restaurant and various other local businesses have sued Trump, claiming he did not have the authority to issue his proclamation. Indeed, presidents can create national monuments, but the power to erase them would rest with Congress alone. The lawsuit is taking its course, and could go as far as the Supreme Court, but in the meantime no company has begun mining. Rattazzi hopes that his photos will make a contribution to raising public awareness, pending the November 3 elections, which will express a final judgment on this, and many other controversial aspects of the Trump presidency.