Artist Jennifer Bolande‘s Visible Distance/Second Sight is a one-of-a-kind outdoor exhibition sweeping across Southern California. As part of the Desert X exhibition, the project is a collection of site-specific billboards that “advertise” the local landscape. Each strategically placed sign seamlessly camouflages into its surroundings. Altogether, they present a trompe-l’œil series that draws viewers in and subtly celebrates nature.
Ultimately, the experimental billboards offer a novel way to see California’s Gene Autry Trail and Vista Chino region. They each feature scenic, noteworthy views of the rocky, sparsely vegetated hills. From a certain angle, each poster perfectly aligns with its real-life, nature-filled backdrop, “reconnecting the space that the rectangle of the billboard has interrupted.” Unlike works in a gallery, these images urge viewers to remove themselves from static positions. Instead, they invite passersby to take in the sublime beauty from a cruising car. It helps to evoke a sense of movement and gives the series a lively, cinematic feel. Bolande was inspired to adopt and adapt this unique roadside approach due to successful advertising efforts by Burma-Shave, a mid-20th century shaving cream company that pioneered such “moving” billboards.
Since they blend and almost recede into their surrounds, the billboards do not detract from the view. On the contrary, Bolande hopes that this avant-garde approach causes otherwise oblivious passersby to look twice at the often-ignored scenery. In addition, she aims to reflect upon the role—and the alternate capabilities—of billboards and advertisements in modern-day life. “Within the desert empire of roadside signs, Bolande chooses to advertise the very thing so often overlooked,” the Desert X website explains. “Looking up at the billboards our attention is drawn back to the landscape itself, pictured here as a stuttering kinesthetic of real and artificial horizons.”