Not ‘Shopped: Colorfully Surreal Scenes by Sandy Skoglund

These days, just about anyone can alter and collage various elements into a scene using digital technology like Photoshop. But artist Sandy Skoglund has been producing surreal imagery for decades – without the use of a computer. Skoglund can spend months assembling a single elaborate set for photographs that are strange and enchanting.

The installation artist meticulously furnishes these tableaux, often painting most of the elements a single shocking hue. Then, layered on top of these monochromatic background are incongruous objects in a contrasting color. Bright orange goldfish float in the air against a blue bedroom, blue leaves take over an orange home and black squirrels take over a yard that is entirely coated in Pepto-Bismol-pink.

“The origins of my interest in mixing natural and artificial rise from my being a spectator of myself as I behave in the world,” Skoglund told interviewer Luca Panaro in Italy in 2008. “I see myself naturally attracted to some very artificial things, almost as if my life depended on it. If I try to talk myself out of being attracted to these things, but then I am lying to myself and full of miserable conflict.”

“By these things, I mean delicious cookies to eat, fragrant creams to put on my skin, or exciting fabrics or colors to wear. To me, a world without artificial enhancement is unimaginable, and harshly limited to raw nature by itself without human intervention.”