With a profound sense for the natural environment, Lutter’s work in the column-filled basement of Dia:Beacon in 2000 reinvigorated her interest in old-growth forests. The vast, dimly lit space repeatedly punctuated by tall, vertical forms, as seen in Nabisco Factory, Beacon, VII, reminded her of walking through a forest filled with massive tree trunks as a child. This event inspired a search for old-growth forests lasting over a decade and extending throughout Europe and North America.
In 2013, Lutter began a project in Cold Spring along the Hudson Valley to photograph an extensive forest on the fringes of civilization. These images study the way in which trees can offer a distinctive understanding of place. Without the limits of park boundaries and the preconceived vision of a designed landscape, these rural trees define their environment by the meandering laws of nature wherein one must inhabit the spaces defined by the trees themselves. Correspondingly, Lutter’s work in Cold Spring is realized from within an existing room - located in the midst of the trees - that has been completely transformed into a camera obscura.
In Lutter’s large-scale images, many of them taken during the winter when snow covers the ground, the trees and branches make for a delicate woven texture with the trunks climbing vertically and the fine branches interweaving among the horizontal outlines of the landscape finally coming to a rest on the tranquil, unbroken tones of the snow. The high reflectance of snow often results in a final image with the ground nearly as dark as the sky, drawing a visual parallel between what’s above and what’s below, potentially yielding a vision of the world inverted in the mind of the viewer.
Other images photographed during the spring appear to depict an entirely different forest. Here the landscape becomes alive with detail: the leaves shake and thrash, glimmering with light, as though filled with an ecstatic energy in sharp contrast to the almost palpable calmness of her winter images. Yet throughout the seasons, the trees retain a curious glow, each transfigured into a column of light, suggesting an inner radiance at the heart of much of Lutter’s work.