In a world full of chaos we must search inside ourselves for orientation. Our motivations towards material success, desires, and status melt away as we access the internal realms. Once ego has dissolved, we tap into the flow of potentialities where we find beautiful and bizarre revelations beckoning us to give birth to them as art, stories, and sound. Those who can translate the meaning of what they have discovered there with regards to their psyches, give us a better understanding of their imperceptible selves. Their identities become more closely aligned with their purpose as embodiments of an eternal life-force. In this exhibition, three photographers have done just that. By tuning into what is beyond the visible, they have brought psychological and emotional meaning back into the physical realm using symbolic gestures, props, and movement.
Stephanie Reid - curator.
(Models: Dandie Doyle, Kate Kubala, Heather Sanford, Mechelle Gonzales, Rachel Theobald, and Jordan Schiappa)
Approaches to art that are perpetually bright and sunny lack dimension as they ignore the darker aspects of life. The Surrealist André Breton coined the term “l'humour noir”, also known as black comedy or gallows humor, which takes a cynical approach to sensitive topics. It often makes light of them, sometimes in offensive ways, in order to prompt serious contemplation. L'humour noir writing usually concludes that life is meaningless, yet absurdly comical.
Similarly, in Umscheid's “Ghosts” we might coin the term gray comedy. Here he represents the mental blind spots where our motivations are still secreted away from consciousness. This is the stage where we function as shades of ourselves. Yet the apparitions he depicts are sympathetic characters. Some are caught between oblivion and manifestation / ego and non-ego, not quite ready to surrender to the mystery of becoming-imperceptible. Like small children trying to find their way, he keenly describes their awkwardness. Their grasping at the invisible strings of the world as if it were a puppet is futile. Their imbalance and uncertainty causes them to collide into delicately gorgeous and vaguely humorous consequences. Even the "Made in Korea" marking sewn onto the borders of the fabric are part of the haphazard nature of these ghosts' encounters. In Falter, a ghost drags its paint covered foot as if it had accidentally stumbled into it and is now attempting to wipe it off. In Fallen Petals, the apparition props up a dead flower on its hip as a final protest to fading away. The two almost seem to empathize with each other. In Pool's Bottom, the phantom gives a shudder and impulsively attempts to maintain muscular control in the final throes of losing corporeality.
Others in his series appear as if they have finally succumbed to their dissolution. In Becoming the Other, individual personalities are lost as they merge to become new forms. In To the Heavens, the character lets its limp limbs float with the stars. Finally, in Uncloaking, it appears as if one is already levitating, and about to be unveiled after an incubation period. It has touched the invisible and is now prepared to function with a new mind state perpetually open to flux.
How can men learn from the feminine Jungian archetype, the anima, theorized to be inside them all? She is said to visit their dreams to guide them towards enhancing intangible abilities such as intuition, receptivity to the irrational, and depth of emotion, all of which will balance their lives. In his Post Morality series, Angelovski has done just that by listening to his inner visions and dreams about how to proceed with a portrait session requested by the model.
After getting to know the model better, Jan Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring suddenly came to the photographer's mind. That famous painting is sometimes considered a tronie, a 16th and 17th century term for Dutch and Flemish paintings of heads of universal character types, usually wearing costumes, and portrayed to show distinct expressions descriptive of those characters. For example, a youth might be making a funny face or a witch might appear to be laughing hysterically. Sometimes the faces were obstructed by shadows to create a more dramatic image.
A subsequent dream of the model wearing one of artist Polly van der Glas' “facebags” became the catalyst for the costume in these photos. Similarly to the shadows, the woman's face is totally covered here leaving the expression to be found on the mask itself and might be indicative of what the character is thinking. However, the fact that the figure is masked reveals to us that she embodies the skill of looking inward in contemplation. Perhaps even better able to communicate with the child in her womb. Angelovski then, has shown in these images a potent connection between spirit and flesh, not only of one's self, but with others. What better archetype to embody this ideal than a mother?
Finally, it is very fitting that while researching this exhibition, I had a vision of George's face in a dark stairwell with a spiral staircase. A few days later, I saw this Post Morality series and in it I found the link between Umscheid and Sirabonian’s work..
(proposed size 8"x10" in 11”x14” ornate wooden frames remniscent of frames tronie paintings were mounted in
in collaboration with her brother, Andrés.
Where is the beginning and ending of our flesh? When we empathize with another? When we are outsiders who do not function by the status quo? When we build our lives around genuine passion and devotion to our work? When we commune with our environment?
Here, Analia explores these questions by seeking the answers in the story of the unusual life circumstances of herself and her brother, Andrés. Although they have the same parents, he was first born with a natural genetic alteration causing physical disfigurements and a mental disorder, whereas she was born after genetic adjustments were made to ensure she was healthy. In opposite ways, how they were brought into the world is very different from the majority of humans. Together they are outside of societal norms. Their portrait together tenderly expresses her attempt to empathize with and protect him, hiding his protruding rib cage and face, while at the same time gently placing her hand on his. In her second piece the gyroscopic panorama of the kitchen in a restaurant where Andrés is a potato peeler, he again only shows his lovely, dedicated hands to us. In the final photograph of this diptych, she explains that her series of misshapen potatoes represent the ones he discards at work. Thus either revealing his commonality with or mirroring of the majority, the compulsion to discard that which is not uniform.
Below is a still image from a 360 degree interactive gyroscopic image, entitled José, after the owner of the restaurant when Andrés works.
To view it, click here, then scroll left, right, up and down, for the full view.
About the contributor: Stephanie Reid has been a photographer for 27 years and has curated several photography and art shows in Austin, Texas.