Into the Sahara

Into the Sahara (2011), by Roberta Holden, presents a rich sensory journey through impressionistic landscapes and intimate lived spaces of the Moroccan desert. The work explores a deeply subjective and experiential relation to place. Motion blurs distinctions between moonlit nights and hallucinations induced by a torturous mid-day sun. Graininess and fluidity position the world on the verge of transformation, dunes of sand awaiting the next windstorm to be shifted and re-sculpted in time and space.

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The dynamic and transient nature of the desert’s geography is also reflected in the lived experience of its people. Camel trains of travelers trace routes across great oceans of drifting sand, following ancient footprints, invisible but for a collective historical memory. Tent camps appear and disappear from the landscape, with little left to mark the passage of Man. Only the music, passed down through generations, recalls our continuance. Into the Sahara draws on visual tropes developed in Roberta’s previous work The Stillness of Motion: Changing Polar Landscapes (2007). The juxtaposition of these two works alludes to commonalities between worlds apart – between deserts of sand and deserts of snow – at opposite extremes of the thermal spectrum.

Image Specs:
Limited edition of 5, 18”x24” C-prints on canvas, lightly varnished with grains of sand from the Sahara desert. No post-processing is involved (all effects are the natural result of low light).