It’s the last weekend to catch “Reflections Through a Lens: The Genre of Self-Portraiture" at HomeSpace Gallery. Before it's gone, Taylor Murrow weighs in.
Without the advent of the mirror, our own image would evade us. This simple notion is easily forgotten in everyday life. “Reflections Through a Lens” unites five artists—Josephine Sacabo, Mimi Stafford, Tina Freeman, Elizabeth Shannon, and Sylvia Plachy—to explore image and identity through self-portraiture. With the installation of plush curtains and a bearskin rug in one corner, the gallery space is styled in a way that recalls the old practice of cartes de visite, inviting visitors to consider the drama and history of self-presentation.
Josephine Sacabo’s photographs often feel like a bridge between the worlds of dream and reality—a realm occupied by our inner selves. They are mesmerizing, but rarely (if ever) have we seen the photographer capture her own image. In Jacqueline and Me, 2012, Sacabo continues to elude the lens, foregrounding a longtime female subject with merely the suggestion of the artist’s presence beyond, assuming that purgatorial place and becoming an ethereal wisp of light and shadow. As a result, the model in the frame functions as an extension of the artist, who acts as an observer in the background, creating a sense akin to an out-of-body experience. Sacabo often cites poetry as inspiration for her work and audiences may readily compare the illusory quality of her gravures to the magical realism of García Lorca.
Hungarian-born Sylvia Plachy takes a similar approach to the genre. Born in Budapest, Plachy was mentored by André Kertész, the renowned Hungarian photographer, and like Kertész,
Plachy makes excellent use of shadow. She often appears in her self-portraits as no more than that—a distorted reflection or a few fingers caught in the frame. Each moment, here captured and framed alongside another in a diptych, reads as a defining experience—the juxtaposition cementing a connection the artist has not only with her work but also her own existence. As Plachy has said, those slivers of exposure say: “I was here.”
It’s clear these women use self-portraiture as more than a means of recording the external. It’s a tool for self-discovery. Their fractal memories and desires, the treasured objects that surround them, these do as much to define them as the configuration of mouth, nose, and eyes.
“Reflections Through a Lens: The Genre of Self-Portraiture" on view through April 8, 2012 at HomeSpace Gallery, 1128 St. Roch Avenue in New Orleans. The exhibition is open Saturday and Sunday, 12–5 pm.