Pictures of intimacy
I have written before about Kim Reigel'92s sweet and daring documentary portraits of couples in their bedrooms. The '93Observations of Intimacy'94 series obviously continues to drive Reigel, and I suspect the results will continue to move viewers whether they are seeing the pictures for the first time or the fifth. What always strikes me as most exciting about these pictures is the level of access that Reigel achieves. Her subjects collaborate with her by inviting her into the most personal spaces of their lives, and she responds with simple and sensitive portrayals of who they are, there and then. Each image has an amiable tension and a kind of poised defiance. Body language and facial expressions seem to reveal details about the dynamics of each couple'92s relationship, but they reveal just as much about how these people want to present themselves to the world.
Carolyn Sherer'92s photographs are intimate portraits of a completely different kind. A triptych titled '93Soldiers'94 is comprised of pictures that could have come from a kind of formal family album. The first photo shows her sister, Lori Sherer Bartz, and her brother-in-law, Scott Bartz, standing side-by-side on a pretty piece of the family'92s property in Walker County. Both are wearing the camouflage uniforms of the U.S Airforce. Lori is several months pregnant '96 that'92s obvious to any viewer. What'92s less obvious to a non-military viewer is that she is an officer '97 in the military subculture, this is arguably a picture of conflict in itself, as officers being married to enlisted soldiers is frowned upon. In the next photo, Lori is standing on the same strip of land but it'92s a different season: the landscape has changed, the color of her camouflage has changed and her son Bryan is in her arms with his arms wrapped around her neck. Scott is not in the picture. In the third and final piece of the tryptych, the season has changed yet again '96 same strip of land but both parents are gone and the baby has grown into a toddler. Bryan is being hugged by his grandmother Doylene Sherer, in civilian clothes, who was acting as the boy'92s primary caretaker while both of his parents were deployed. On an adjacent wall of the gallery, there is a portrait of Bryan alone and the image is light-hearted and a just a little sinister The boy is barefoot, bare-chested and has his back to the camera; he has a military haircut and wears camouflage underpants and is clambering alone on a few small rocks.
Text in context
In addition to the show'92s powerful visuals, the photographers have created powerful imagery through words superimposed over pictures. Karen Graffeo'92s contributions to the group show include an installation of 3-D self-portraits etched in glass blocks, with lines of autobiographical essays also etched on each block. In her artist'92s statement, Graffeo said:
'93The series of glass laser etched images that I present address two compelling aspects of photography, story and light...'a0'a0 I wanted to free photography from all opacity, ink and paper... I love to embrace the contradictions of photographic techniques that are often associated with tourism and nostalgia and to transcend both by embracing pure story and light. I believe that story is a sacred surgical sword and each place where we are pierced with story is exactly the place where light can enter.'94
Gallery visitors are privileged that they can examine up close myriad ways that Graffeo has depicted that light. Dozens of palm-sized, rectangular blocks of glass '97 each emblazoned with a naked torso and a fragment of provocative language, and illuminated from below so that it seems to glow on its own '97 are displayed on dozens of slender pedestals. A magnifying glass hangs on the wall nearby so that each self-portrait can be closely examined, and the light plays on the pieces differently thoughout the day. (Also included in '93the f words'94 are a few of Graffeo'92s photographs of the Romani people of Eastern Europe, part of a series called '93Let Us Now Praise the Roma,'94 which she has been working on for nearly a decade.)
Choosing to make art about adoption is like walking into a minefield of sentimentality '97 one misstep could devastate the aesthetic landscape, rendering thoughtful, personal artwork into greeting-card claptrap. Sonja Rieger avoids this peril through the simplicity of her images, both the verbal and the visual. My eyes were always drawn first to the words: the white type was just bright enough to stand out as type, but if you just gave a picture a passing glance you might mistake the letters for a pattern in the landscape. In a photo of a snowy hillside, the words nearly disappear in a drift. In a photo of a baby blanket, the words almost dissolve between stitches. The interplay between these spare narratives, between each singular image and the few carefully chosen words, is potent.
Space One Eleven is located at 2409 Second Ave. North. Gallery hours Tues-Fri, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. '93The f words'94 runs through Dec. 12, along with '93Upstream,'94 an exhibition by the Alabama-born photographer David Young. There will be a culmination event for '93Cupcakes! An Installation by Spencer Shoults'94 at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 3. For more information, call (205) 328-0553 or visit www.spaceoneeleven.org