Last semester my professor Betsy Schneider informed us we would be taking a trip to Biosphere 2 in Oracle, AZ. This place is not too far from home for me and I have often driven past the junction to the dome on the way to Tucson, but I never thought to visit. We were going to speak with Judy Natal who was a working artist in residency at the Biosphere 2.
Although it was not at all what I had expected, the trip was great! For those of you who don’t know (or didn’t watch ridiculous 90’s movies) Biosphere 2 was an experiment performed to see if humans could sustain life on another planet inside a dome like the one built, by maintaining their own livestock and growing their own food. The project was somewhat of an epic fail, but what remains in this space is the ability to understand other ecosystems at work and an amazing muse for contemplation of future life. The interaction between man-made sterility and overtaking nature is breathtaking. I couldn’t help but to photograph a little myself via camera phone.
We visited with Judy in her home/studio nestled across from the Catalina Mountains and on the pathway to the huge biosphere. She explained how living onsite fostered the growth in her photographic project Future Perfect. She was the creator of this residency which continues on, and explained the process of how we as artists could live where they wanted to work. You have 24/7 access to your inspiration and community interaction you otherwise wouldn’t get.
I would enjoy a residency at Biosphere 2 in the future because it appeals to my interests in land use and the desert. The spiritual connection you can find alone mountain-top has always been my favorite; now to imagine living this way for weeks or months sounds like an amazing opportunity for artistic exploration. I also love the fact that it is only about an hour drive from my home, so I will not miss out on my family, which is a big consideration for an artist with young children. If I were to live here I would love to hike daily to the surrounding unpopulated areas to work. Having a home base already atop a mountain would make view camera shooting so much more feasible in the desert. I am excited to look into this residency as a future stepping stone to creating.
Judy Natal finished her project which just went on display in her hometown, Chicago. You can see more of her work from this series Future Perfect at JudyNatal.com.