As snow and ice hit the East Coast, New Yorkers are happy to enjoy a glimpse of springtime via a striking underground lightbox installation created by Brooklyn-based artist Leah Oates 91 IL
On display at the Bryant Park subway station through June, Park Windows provides a panoramic vista of local greenery and is part of the artist’s ongoing Transitory Space series.
“Every moment captured on film is over as soon as the shutter clicks,” Oates notes. “I make multiple exposures of specific frames to [reflect] more accurately the visual cacophony we experience – the many realities we live at once.”
Oates, who owns and runs Station Independent Projects on the Lower East Side, recently showed her work at Susan Eley Fine Art in NYC and also has a piece in When Language Meets Art, a group exhibition on view through January 28 at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts in Lubbock, TX.
The Transitory Space series deals with urban and natural locations that are transforming due to the passage of time, altered natural conditions and a continual human imprint.In everyone and in everything there are daily changes and this series articulates fluctuation in the photographic image and captures movement through time and space.Transitory spaces have a messy human energy that is perpetually in the present yet continually altering. They are endlessly interesting, alive places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility.
Link to site below:
Link to a PDF version of the magazine below:
“Contradictory realities can be found co-existing wherever we look. They’re in what we choose to think; what we choose to believe; and, how we choose to act. And, they can be found in what we choose to observe. I work with multiple exposures on film to get a more accurate record of how we remember time transpiring which is not frozen into a single moment but more nuanced and layered. When I look back on a moment it’s full of impressions and multiple exposures really capture this”.
Leah Oates has a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and a M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Fulbright Fellow for graduate study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.
Oates has had solo shows in NYC at Susan Eley Fine Art, The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, The Center for Book Arts, A4L Gallery, Henry Street Settlement and A Taste of Art Gallery and locally at Tomasulo Gallery in New Jersey, Real Art Ways in Connecticut, Sara Nightingale Gallery in Water Mill, Long Island and the Sol Mednick Gallery at the Philadelphia University of the Arts. Oates has had solo shows nationally at Anchor Graphics, Artemisia Gallery and Woman Made Gallery in Chicago and internationally at Galerie Joella in Turku, Finland. Leah Oates has been in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Momenta Art, Flux Factory, Wave Hill, International Print Center, Storefront for Art, Proteus Gowanus, Nurture Art Gallery, Elizabeth Heskin Contemporary, Gallery Aferro, Metaphor Contemporary Art and The Center for Book Arts and internationally at the Royal Scottish Academy & Open Eye Gallery in Scotland, Open Studio Gallery and Spin Gallery in Toronto, Galerie Joella and Turku City Art Museum in Finland, Swinton Art Centre and University of Northampton Art Gallery in England and at NEME and The National Centers of Contemporary Art in Russia and Cyprus.
This two-person exhibition features paintings by Vivian Kahra and photography by Leah Oates. Oates will exhibit works from her ongoing series “Transitory Space,” for which she has traveled extensively to China, Canada, Finland and the US. Ephemeral images of trees and waterscapes were photographed in Nova Scotia, Canada and Prospect Park, Brooklyn, where Oates lives. She uses double — sometimes triple — exposure, which creates halos of light, and gauzy effects in muted greens and blues. Through her artistic work, Oates questions the notion of stasis in the natural and manmade worlds and challenges the proverbial idea that a click of the camera freezes a moment in time. Oates offers stunning, lyrical landscapes that are constantly transforming. Time never stands still and neither do her scenes, subject matter, and experiences.
Leah Oates has B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Fulbright Fellow for study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.
Oates has an upcoming solo show at Susan Eley Fine Art, NYC from November-December 2016 and has had numerous solo shows at venues including The Central Park Arsenal Gallery, The Center for Book Arts, Real Art Ways,Tomasulo Gallery, Artemisia Gallery, Sara Nightingale Gallery, The Brooklyn Public Library and Susan Eley Fine Art.
Work by Oates was recently installed as part of the MTA Arts & Design Light Box series at 42nd Street at 6th Avenue in Bryant Park, NYC.
Oates has been part of group shows in NYC at The Pen and Brush Gallery, Peer Gallery, 440 Gallery, Metaphor Contemporary Art, NYOC Gallery, Pierogi Gallery, Nurture Art, Momenta Art, Associated Gallery, Susan Eley Fine Art and Denise Bibro Fine Art.
Works on paper by Oates are in numerous public collections including the Harvard University Libraries, The Brooklyn Museum Artists’ Book Collection, The Walker Art Center Libraries, The Smithsonian Libraries and the Franklin Furnace Archive at MoMA, NYC.
The Transitory Space series deals with urban and natural locations that are transforming due to the passage of time, altered natural conditions and a continual human imprint. In everyone and in everything there are daily changes and this series articulates fluctuation in the photographic image and captures movement through time and space.
Transitory spaces have a messy human energy that is perpetually in the present yet continually altering. They are endlessly interesting, alive places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility. They are temporary monuments to the ephemeral nature of existence.
An underground MTA station may be the last place you’d expect to see nature, but that’s exactly what artist Leah Oates has brought to the 42nd Street-6th Avenue subway stop in Manhattan. As part of the series Transitory Space, which studies the transformation of urban and natural locations over time, Oates installed Park Windows, a light box artwork with massive photographs of New York’s lush outer-borough parks. These beautiful “windows into nature” offer respite to passersby and a transitional space between the underground station and Bryant Park, which sits right above it.
Nature comes inside the subway station and forms a panorama in the current lightbox exhibit below Bryant Park. The work is part of a series, Transitory Space, which deals with urban and natural locations that are transforming due to the passage of time, altered natural conditions and human imprint. Oates captures these conditions through techniques which reveal movement, change and shifts form frame to frame. It is an engaging respite for those traversing the city underground and the exhibit forms its own transitional space from underground to the park above. Oates feels that these transitory spaces are marked by the presence of human energy that is continually changing.
The images were taken from photographs at outer-borough parks where nature overcomes the urban grid and environmental obstacles and thrives. Oates manipulates the film to keep the frame visible in the image to underscore the sense of the unspooling of time. Her angles provide a sense of being there and here they open a window to another world, as they spread across the width of the lightboxes. The early spring blustery day and radiantly lit sky provides a window to nature and will be on view through mid-2017.
Oates studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Fulbright Fellow for Printmaking at Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. She has exhibited her work widely in NY and the US. She is NY based.
The exhibit was generously sponsored by Kodak alaris and Duggal.
Click to a preview of the publication:
Leah Oates, an artist whose work involves photography, printmaking and art of the book, has opened a window onto springtime in the park — underground along the #7 line at the 42nd Street Bryant Park MTA Station.
The new work for MTA Arts & Design is comprised of a 7-panel lightbox more than 50 feet long. The backlighted photographs were made, says the artist, at outer-borough parks where nature overcomes the urban grid and environmental obstacles, and thrives. Oates manipulates the film to keep the frame visible in the image, underscoring the sense of the unspooling of time. Her angled viewpoint provide a sense of simultaneously being there and here as these images open a window to a world of sensory perception. The lightbox will be on view through mid-2017.
Click to a preview of the publication:
Question 1: This piece is truly an experience. When I look at it, I feel movement through space as well as time, almost like I’m in this same patch of forest through each of the four seasons at once. The use of negative and sepia tones throughout help speak to that. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this piece. What inspired it, and what’s the story behind it? What does it mean to you?
I think your impression of this work are accurate and great. I also see lots of movement and a ghost image of this location almost as if its being lost or fading.
I think of this like how our memory works, or what may happen if we don’t take care of nature and our green spaces. This image to me is both beautiful and poignant as it represents something that is here now, but may not be tomorrow.
The use of a two tones (i.e. sepia tone or duotone) looks more like an x- ray so it gives the impression of looking under the surface into another layer of reality and going deeper into something hidden which comes into view.
Q 2: What is the process that goes into creating a piece like this? How do you take an idea from its inception to creation, and how do you know when it is complete?
I work with 35mm and medium format film in cameras. I expose the film multiple times and play with lenses, exposure times, and light leaks.
In my studio practice it’s a mix of focused work and loose play. All work all the time can get dull—so play is really important for me. When my negatives are processed I have them scanned too, and I play with these images with color, tweak them, and work on artists’ books and pigment prints in studio.
Sometimes I’ll just know a work is done; other times, it’s never done. I think of this work as being part of a body of work that speaks to a focus on shifting nature and the environment, and that is part of a whole series of images that create a dialogue and narrative rhythm together.
Q 3: How has your artwork evolved over time? What have been the most challenging obstacles to overcome in your work as an artist, and how did you overcome them?
I started as a painter, printmaker, and bookmaker, and evolved into a photographer over time. This was partly due to allergies to chemicals associated with painting and printmaking and also a shift in my interests as an artist and what I wanted the work to say and see in my work.
In terms of challenges, it’s always the same thing with any creative person: the inner dance between time and money, or money and time. The only other barrier for me as an artist has been my own inner critic and inertia at times and a desire to not be in studio on a beautiful, sunny day.
When you’re a pro you get to work in studio despite these things. To overcome these obstacles I now do take breaks when needed and get outside on a sunny day if the sun is beckoning. I’m more selective of what I get involve with, too. Taking short breaks I find helps a lot as I have more energy when I am working.
Q 4: As writers, our readers and staff members do a lot of drafting until a piece is complete, trying out forms, scrapping, repeating. What goes into your creative process, and is there a drafting equivalent? What do you do to ensure your subject or scene is portrayed in exactly the way you want?
My shooing process is pretty fluid and the creativity is in the framing and selection process of what I end up shooting. It’s all then in the editing, selection, and sequencing of images and in the details where the creativity comes into play.
Q 5: What artists and/or photographers have been the most influential on your work? Why are these people and their works so important to you?
I have so many favorite artists.
I love the paintings of Turner as they are mysteriously beautiful and leave information out and have only what is needed to convey the place being depicted.
I love the works of Yoko Ono and Sophie Calle for their poetic, generous, and playful sensibilities.
I love the work of Ann Hamilton for her very refined specificity, ambition, and ability to create magical work from seemingly ordinary, everyday material.
I love the work of Jean-Michael Basquiat as his works touches me and I feel he is right there on the surface of his works, and that his work has a unique vitality to it.
I love the works of Rembrant, Toulous Lautrec, Klimt, Frans Hals, Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, Holbein, Vermeer, Cezanne, Monet, Matisse, and Carivaggio as the works they created have a presence that only great work has that is hard to define. The places and people they depict leap off the surfaces of their works and speak directly back at the viewer. It unnerves me but I like that it does this, as these works make me more aware of being human, wake me up and in turn give me joy to see.
Q 6: I’ve never asked anyone this question before, but I find myself wondering: Does music play any role in your work? Do you find yourself listening to a particular genre while you create, or when you’re seeking inspiration?
I used to listen to music, NPR, or Air America Radio when in studio. Now I crave stillness and quiet, as life can get busy in NYC—and I juggle family, studio, and a business I run, so I don’t listen to music or radio so much now. Also NYC can get really noisy.
My favorite music is by TV On The Radio, Spoon, MGMT, Blondie, David Bowie, The Pretenders, LDC Soundsystem, The Pixies, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Public Enemy, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols, amongst others.
Q 7: Who is your favorite author or poet (or, if you don’t have one, what’s your favorite book or collection)? Why?
So hard to pick a favorite author or poet. I can’t really answer why I respond to these writers, except to say that their work made me feel more deeply about what is means to be human, and it inspires me in different ways.
My favorite authors are Margurite Duras, Truman Capote, Cormac McCarthy, Jane Smiley, Wally Lamb, Peter Mattisen, Russell Banks, Joyce Carrol Oates, and Leslie Marmon Silko.
For poets I like Maya Angelou, Adrienne Rich, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and T.S.Eliot.
Q 8: Are you working on any projects currently that you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m about to head off to Halifax and Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada for six weeks to explore and photograph, and to spend time with family. So I will be making new work as a continuation of the Transitory Space series.
I’m currently planning a pop-up solo show of my work for Spring 2017 in NYC. I also have shows up now in NYC this summer. Here’s more info on those: Transitory Space, Prospect Park, Brooklyn & Beyond by Leah Oates June 11, 2015 – September 25, 2015 Central Library, 2nd floor Balcony Cases Caught on Film: Finding the Extraordinary Susan Eley Fine Art June 10 – September 4, 2015 THERE IS NO ROOM FOR US HERE NYOC Gallery, NY Open Center On view though August 4th.
Q 9: If you could turn the world onto one artist, who would it be?
Matisse or Monet would be my first choices! The color, joy and beauty in their work would transform the world and bring universal peace or at least a really good and joyous party would ensue right away.
Q 10: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
If you’re a creative person keep working and be in studio as much as you can. Through the work things happen that one cannot anticipate. Just be there and be present and your half way there already.
Also to those out there that want to have kids—do it! Having my son is the best thing I’ve ever done, and it’s had only positive effects on me and my work. I’m a better person due to my son and I’ve kept working. If your will and love of your work is there you will continue to do so. If you’re a female artist, tune out the sexist nonsense—and if faced with sexists nonsense reply that recent studies show that kids of working moms do just fine and that there are benefits to kids. Girls are more likely to pursue their passions in their work and boys are more likely to pitch in and support their wives and girlfriends who work. Seems like an improvement to me.
“New York City wilderness” might sound like an oxymoron–planned parks, tree pits, and cramped courtyards hardly count as untamed nature. But as photographer Leah Oates reveals in her series “Transitory Space: Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and Beyond,” on view now at the Brooklyn Public Library, otherworldly landscapes often hide in plain view here. In Oates’ trippy images, captured on 35mm film and manipulated in-camera using double exposure techniques, the trees of Prospect Park transform into ghostly silhouettes; pond scum resembles a Pollack splatter painting.
“The series is about paying attention,” Oates, who grew up in rural Maine, says. “It’s about the importance and beauty of nature amidst the constant movement of a city.” She focuses on how urban green spaces creep up on the imposed order of a city when they’re not obsessively pruned and cared for. In particular, she’s attracted to the unkempt foliage of Prospect Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Pelham Bay Park, since these outer-borough spaces aren’t as well-maintained as the tourist-filled Central Park. “In Central Park, as lovely as it is, there are so many people, and you rarely have any privacy,” Oates says. “In Prospect Park, if you know it well enough, you can find parts that are private where you’re in full-on nature.” Her work, some of which is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, pays homage to that anarchic natural energy that can be easy to lose touch with in the city.
Trained at Rhode Island School of Design and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a printmaker, Oates opts for analog film, fish-eye or wide angle lenses, and manual in-camera manipulation to achieve her supersaturated colors and warped perspectives. They make Brooklyn’s wilderness seem the stuff of dark fairy tales.
“Humans think they control nature, but it might be the other way around,” Oates says. “That’s easy to forget when you’re in the city.”
Transitory Space: Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and Beyond is on view at the Brooklyn Public Library until September 25, 2015.
A woman to watch now in the art world is an artist with multiple roles. Leah Oates runs her own art gallery Station Independent Projects in New York’s Lower East Side. In the interview she sheds light on how she found her path.
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Your photography reflects multiple textures, showing light, contrast, opening up to magical worlds, how did you find your own medium?
Leah Oates: I started as a painter and printmaker, and I still see the influence of both in my current work with the layering and density of color and light. The common thread with my past work in other medias was always photography as I painted and printed from photographs but in the past I saw the photos I took at support materials or documentation. At some point I realized that the photography was the main and most continuous thread in my work so transitioned to how I work now.
Do you feel that memories, or where you come from resonates in your art? Your works have been also exhibited overseas, how was the experience in China, for instance?
LO: Where I was raised and my specific family definitely connects to my current work. My grandmother is a biologist who studied at Harvard and one of my uncles worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (he is now a private consultant on environmental issues) and another worked for the Army Corp of Engineers. Thus there was a lot of dialogue about the environment, nature, human rights and politics.
My mom, brother and grandmother are painters and my grandfather was a painter and photographer who ran a photo studio when he was young taking family, wedding and baby photos. He later became a real estate lawyer with a big Irish Catholic brood of six kids including my dad Danny who was a writer and carpenter. I have an uncle who is a successful ceramic artist in Maine and an aunt who is a glass artist in Massachusetts.
This mix very much informed my work as well as growing up in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts and in rural town in Sanford, Maine where my family goes back in both states to the 1600s.
Being and working in China was amazing. We all absolutely loved it there from the street culture to the food to the parks to the incredible energy there. It was wonderful to photograph there and yes its polluted and yes it can be messy but the light is wonderful and the people are friendly, sweet and almost old fashioned. We would go back in a heartbeat.
With China I had a lot of reverence for their history beyond Mao and the revolution etc. China is an ancient place and much older than the US or Europe with so much amazing history. China is a work in progress and like all places has things to work on but it’s a really vibrant, alive and interesting place.
My work there dealt with the changes happening in the culture related to climate change, random urban planning that is erasing local culture and customs and how nature reacts to all of this within a rapidly expanding urban setting.
LO: My husband Pierre traveled to NYC on a few business trips and instantly loved the NYC. We where living in Chicago at the time and liked it but NYC is closer to both our families in New England and Canada and it has a thriving and large art community so we moved here when I finished up my MFA. At first I was not sure about living in NYC for that long but gave it a try.
I begin ironically to love NYC after September 11th as the city just melted ones heart. I saw how the city came together in a way I would not have imagined as you know normally is like ‘get outta my way’, or ‘move it fast’, on a daily basis here. But the thing about New Yorkers is that in a crisis situation they have your back and this is what I learned about NYC that made me really fall for this city.
And the art community is the best I’ve experienced. People are energetic, they work hard and like to do so, are open to new things and they make things happen and quickly. It’s a hopping, creative, and no nonsense art city. Yes there is the regular nonsense you have in any city but things really get done here and in high volume and at top quality too. You see the best here and yes the worst too but here we move so fast that there is no time for that stuff. It’s a very discerning crowd here.
I’ll give an example. Pierre, my husband has shot films in other cities and it always move so much slower than in NYC and he often hits walls initially either from unions or agents etc. In NYC it’s the total opposite where he finds what he needs easily and hears yes a lot! Its gets done here without the baloney. Here it’s a YES lets do it mentality which I really like and opens thing up potentially for innovation, creativity and hybrids. I now cannot conceive of living anywhere else and I’m now head over heals in love with this city.
It’s quite easy to imagine that last few years have been truly busy in leading your own art space. How do you feel the transition has been in terms of becoming a gallerist?
LO: I love running a gallery, and working with my artists to plan their shows. I’m really happy about the quality of the shows, level of press and number of curator visits and attention that the gallery shows have received and sales have been good.
It’s been an amazing experience all around. The first few months when I initially opened where very exciting and there was a bit of anxiety about how it would impact our family. Mainly it was our son Max who wanted his mom to be around 24/7 but he really got behind the gallery when he saw the space and saw that is made me happy. He even wanted to serve drinks and where a suit which was so cute! There has been a good balance between family, the gallery and my studio practice for quite some time now so it all good.
What is your secret in balancing between different roles in the art world?
LO: Most artists or art professionals have jobs so it’s the norm in most cases unless you’re very rich.
A quote I like is ‘A good artist studies art and a great artist studies everything’. My dream is to be an artist, curator and gallerist, so I’ve followed this to see where it leads. It’s an interesting and rich journey that is worth taking. What I’ve learned too is to plan out the week and get the work done. Just do it and don’t think too much about it. Get your self into studio and get working as through the work interesting stuff happens and if your not there it’s less likely to happen. The same goes for running the gallery.
Additionally, trust yourself and go for it, plan strategically and it’s ok to say no, rest when needed and spend time with those that make you feel good and even better loved.
You have also featured artists in the art fairs; do you find attending art fairs rewarding?
LO: The gallery participated in Pulse NY last year and it went really well with sales and press, work placed in a corporate collection and several private collections and so much great feedback and contacts. It was a complete buzz and reinforced that the gallery artists and program was as good as I thought it was. People who visited our booth loved it and where so positive. But with all of this great stuff we only broke even and fairs are expensive to do. But they are now so much a part of the art world that it’s a must to do them as a gallery and again I think it best to be strategic with this and keep to a budget. I have only good thing to say about Pulse from a gallery perspective. This fair is run very professionally and everyone is super nice and efficient. Everything they promised they delivered on.
As an artist I’m not a huge fan of fairs overall but I do love Pulse, Spring Break and The Independent art fairs. They are so different as fairs but seem to push the dialogue forward and are visually interesting.
As an artist at fairs I like running into so many people and taking about art but think that fairs can be too formulaic and favor art that is easy to process with too much surface and not enough depth. As an artist I think fairs are a survey of trends, are about status and art world hierarchy and not so much about art or pushing the dialogue ahead. But again as a gallerist, curator or as an artist participating in a fair you have to do it as it’s for the potential for so much attention in a short period of time and in a condensed fashion.
It is very delighting that Station Independent features Finnish artists. Could you tell in few words about the Finnish collaborations that are coming up this summer?
LO: Yes I’m pleased that the gallery will be hosting two guest curated shows this summer by Ilari Laamanen and Leena-Maija Rossi both from Finnish Cultural Institute.
Ilari has curated a group show of Finnish artists called ‘The Powers That Be’ which is on view from July 17-August 9th. This show is part of FCINY’s 25th Anniversary year’s program on Urban Nature and explores human’s relationship to the environment.
Rossi has curated a two person show that explores shifting ideas on dwellings in urban space called ‘(Un)livable’ with work by Kari Soinio and Janet Biggs which opens August 13th and is on view through September 6th.
How would you define your own curatorial motto?
LO: My curatorial motto is to not follow trends but to follow art and artists. I’ve been following the gallery artists from between 5-25 years. Also, it’s important to love the work your showing and to choose work based on its merits and not on if it’s easy to sell. It’s all about the artwork itself and about dialogues about art within a larger context of the past, present and future.
The Hand Magazine
Issue #8, April 2015
TIME TRANSPIRED -- BETWEEN BEAUTY AND CHAOS
Art Voices Magazine
By Dale Youngman, Edited by Terrence Sanders
Leah Oates is an old-school New Englander. Born in Boston MA, and reared first in Cambridge, then in the small town of Sanford, Maine, the current Brooklyn - based photographer credits her style and sensibilities and strong reverence for nature to her mostly rural upbringing. Her mother-s ancestors in Maine and Massachusetts can be traced back to the early 1600-s, where they were sea captains, and fought in the Revolutionary War. This rich colonial heritage has definitely infiltrated her stylish work with a kind of East-coast discernment, as she recycles and layers images of dilapidated structures and industrial wastelands with the natural beauty she was surrounded by as a child, to produce something entirely new and noteworthy. Seeing beauty where others may not, she manages to create surprising and engaging art from unremarkable subject matter.
Born into a family of artists including her mother, brother, an aunt and uncle, Oates was immersed in art and culture from early childhood on, and her interest in that world never wavered. Oates remembers, -My mom being a painter loved all things art-related, and she always brought my brother and I to museums, galleries, film festivals and street performances in Harvard Square. I was exposed to a lot of visual art, theatre, dance, and live music. We often went to museums to see the Old Masters and European painters like Caravaggio, Cezanne, Corbett, Rembrandt, Goya and Velasquez, and modern painters too, but rarely contemporary artists. I think this was a very good foundation.-
Growing up in Cambridge opened up many doors for the young Leah. At seven years old she received a full scholarship to study dance at the Cambridge School of Ballet. -The teachers were Russian and British, and we studied every day after school for hours, and on weekends too. I loved it, as it was full of wonderful music, with magical ideas and costumes. I lost interest in dance though when I was thirteen, as the level of commitment at the time was too intense for me as a teenager. That was when my focus shifted to visual arts.- The move to Maine that followed brought about the appreciation for nature that is still so prevalent in her photography, and is the mainstay of her professional work.
Oates is well-known for her images that encapsulate the essence of the rural countryside - the meandering streams, massive trees and cloud-strewn skies that she manipulates and juxtaposes with abandoned structures, trash heaps and the chaos of human impact. Capturing and connecting naturally beautiful organic images with the taint of an apathetic society creates the complex and intriguing content of her expressive images that are both energetic and serene, eliciting questions about meaning, impact, and significance. Her renowned work has been shown in galleries across the country, and is featured in many public collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Brooklyn Museum, The British Library, The Walker Art Center Libraries, The Smithsonian Libraries, and the Franklin Furnace Archive at the Museum of Modern Art.
Beauty is a word Oates uses often when talking about her muse, Mother Nature. Bringing attention to mankind-s often destructive behavior in that realm and the ensuing dire consequences seems to be a motivating factor in her work. As she explains -Beauty is transformative, and elicits so many emotions from us, makes life so much better, and elevates us. I see beauty even in the seemingly "ugly," as a keyhole into our true reality without fear, assumptions, or a need for control. It-s all there, all the time, and one just has to turn ones focus towards it. I'd like viewers who interact with my work to see the beauty everywhere, all the time, and how urban and natural environments relate to each other. Both have this incredible creative energy from different sources.-
Oates obviously has a profound respect for nature, and feels very connected to it. Certainly, having uncles that worked for the Environmental Protection Agency didn-t hurt, but her connection to the great outdoors seems more innate. From her perspective, -How we view and treat nature is a reflection of our personal inner world, as we are as much a part of nature as a tree or a rock. Where I grew up in Maine it was both rural and industrial and the landscape in Maine is truly American and off the grid, which still influences my work. It is wild, sublime and has unique energy which I just love and respond to.-
In this age of Instagram, it is hard to stand out as a photographer, since nearly everyone has a camera phone in their pocket. Yet Oates, who still uses a film camera and develops her own work in the darkroom, not only has a great eye for composition, but also has some unique tricks to create her unusual and complex images. Shooting multiple exposures and using multiple cameras in a single shoot, then layering image upon image is part of her technique that creates her unpredictable and eloquent photos. Utilizing infra-red photography gives many images a ghost-like appearance, capturing fragile moments of time and space for temporary memorials that seem more like intricate paintings than photography. This is how she captures time transpiring - layered, splintered, and not frozen in a crystalline single moment. Later, when she looks back at the film, there are many impressions to play with, due to the multiple exposures. The documentation of that moment, location, or shadow exists only partially - and fragmented - in her minds eye, but captured completely by her cameras.
-I think I'm creating images that we are not seeing much in contemporary photography. Now a photograph can't just be a photograph. It has to be dissected, repositioned and analyzed, which can detract from the actual work. It-s like a really well written novel, where the writer is so good that the reader doesn-t see the mechanisms of the writing. It-s all there, effortlessly, because the writer is so skilled, has a vision and knows what they want to communicate, and achieves it.-
As observers, we are fortunate that Leah Oates has the skill and motivation to show us the splendor of the wilderness all around us, while forcing us to acknowledge our own damaging impact on it. Her work is like an excursion through time and space, viewing the natural environment in an unnatural way, forcing us to open our eyes a little wider, and take in the contradictions of ephemeral beauty and society.
FOCUS Magazine Issue # 7
Edited by Achraf Baznani
The Physics of Photography
VASA Journal on Images and Culture
By Dan Duda and Edited by Roberto Muffoletto
Dan Duda and Leah Oates collaborated on the creation of this essay. Leah Oates is a photographer working out of New York City and Dan Duda is a scientific writer living in Lititz, Pennsylvania (USA). This is Dan’s second essay for VJIC on photography and Quantum theory. Leah Oates visual dialog is linked from this essay.
Leah Oates “Humans leave traces and artifacts of our consciousness everywhere in our environment. Contradictory realities can be found co-existing wherever we look. They’re in what we choose to think; what we choose to believe; and, how we choose to act. And, they can be found in what we choose to observe.”
Dan. Why has science become so bizarre? Why does it take a super genius to decipher what reality is all about? Why can’t a scientist say ‘this is how it is,’ in a way that everyone just understands? Well, at least there is a relatively easy answer to those questions. Simply stated, human senses and intellect have developed in a way that is most useful for survival. For example, stereoscopic vision with color perception was valuable for life in forests, trees and plains—comprehending the structure of four levels of the multiverse—not so much. The ability to develop strategies for hunting, gathering and cultivating a continuing food supply is essential. Grasping the significance of wave/particle duality wouldn’t even make it to the current ‘must have for survival’ list. However, a working understanding of these deep issues is critical to our continued technological progress—and understanding existential threats on a macro level just might be needed for the future survival of mankind.
Ironically, art can provide a bridge of understanding to a reality that escapes the severe boundaries of our intuition. Leah Oates is among a group of artists who employs photo techniques that express feelings transcending the limits of our rational perceptive ability.
Leah. When I look back on a moment it’s full of impressions and multiple exposures capture this. I make these exposures on specific frames using a 35mm and medium format camera. This allows me to display a more complete correlation of experiences that a single exposure just misses.
“According to Quantum Mechanics, a particle has a definite probability of being anywhere in the universe…We can thank [this] Quantum Tunneling for the Sun’s heat.”
Dan. There are many recent discoveries in particle physics that bend our rational minds to the breaking point (and sometimes beyond). For example, why does the Sun shine? If you ask a scientist he’ll tell you that the enormous mass of our star causes intense gravity which, in turn, causes atoms of hydrogen to fuse into helium. That, in turn, causes the release of photons. Multiplied by all the atoms in the Sun’s core this generates the radiation produced by the Sun and all the other stars in the universe. But in reality, he would be wrong (or at least not totally right). If you do the math you’ll find that there just isn’t enough force in the core of a star to cause nuclear fusion.
However, if you ask a particle physicist that same question, she will tell you that something called quantum tunneling is required for fusion. The Pauli Exclusion Principle tells us, in part, that no two particles can occupy the same space—the electron cloud will resist any such possibility. But this can be overcome by the more powerful (but extremely rare) action of quantum tunneling. It’s extremely rare, but considering all the material and dynamics at the core of the Sun it happens often enough to cause the Sun to shine providing all the energy we encounter on Earth.
At the root of quantum tunneling is the fact that an individual particle can (and does) exist in more than one place at a time. You’re tempted to say ‘oh well, things are really strange in the sub-microscopic’ world but that doesn’t affect me at all. But in our reality we have to keep in mind that everything is made from these particles—including us.
Prospect park photo strip 11 72Leah. Every moment captured on film is over as soon as the shutter clicks, recording the ephemeral. Yet, in reality, there is always a visual cacophony of experience. The concept of quantum tunneling doesn’t surprise me. We are always living in many realities at once. Multiple exposures express the way we experience the world more accurately.
Wave or Particle
“I insist on the view that ‘all is waves.’”
Dan. One of the most outrageous concepts to be proposed in science (or in any other field for that matter) is Erwin Schrödinger’s explanation of the reality of a particle as it moves through space. It really started with Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and a host of other scientists at the beginning of the 1900’s. Their experiments consistently showed that a particle behaved differently when it was observed by a human than when it wasn’t (see the Two Slit Experiment). Albert Einstein (and others) hated this result and the statement it seemed to be making about reality (“God does not play dice with the universe.”). But in spite of an onslaught of attacks, experiment after experiment continues to confirm a weird fact—as matter moves through space (unobserved) it exists as a wave occupying every possible position, and possessing every possible attribute. However, when observed, this “wave” collapses in a single place and with a single set of attributes.
As un-intuitive as wave/particle duality is, it provides, perhaps, the best metaphor for explaining my approach to photography. The wave of possibilities is analogous to what there is to experience. The “observation” is like the click of a shutter that forces the scene to take just one, limited, ephemeral form. Multiple exposure allows me to present a broader range of experience which is actually more accurate of the reality.
“My ideas about time all developed from the realization that if nothing were to change we could not say that time passes.”
Dan. Some scientists feel that what we perceive as time is just change masquerading as our fourth dimension. There’s probably no concept in physics more counter-intuitive than the idea that time doesn’t exist. After all, you started reading this article at one point, but now you’re reading these words. Doesn’t the distance between those two events require a passage of time? Well, within the limited scope of our intuition, time must exist. But we continue to find, time after time, that our innate intuition is far too limited to comprehend reality. And it looks like our perception of time will be another casualty of that limitation.
So, you ask, if time doesn’t exist, at least not as we perceive it, how can we explain the phenomena we experience? Let’s start with our good friend Albert Einstein who said “people like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between the past, the present and the future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” For him, the classical understanding of time began to fall apart with his insight on relativity. In that breakthrough theory, time is just another dimension like up/down; backward/forward; and, left/right. And it’s not constant—the speed of time’s passage that affects us depends on the impact of motion and gravity.
Then what is it that occurs making us think that time is passing? According to particle physicist, Julian Barbour, it’s change. “It is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction, at which we arrive by means of the changes of things.” Some of the most successful equations in physics are completely devoid of a time component.
Time is layered and not frozen into one single moment. Photography is directly connected to time as the camera shoots in fractions of a second. Time is always slipping and fracturing from the present, past and future. We are often living in all these levels at once. But when we’re not, we experience flow—or an absence of time. Multiple exposures are close to the experience of “flow.” When I look at a moment in time I “feel” more than can be recorded with a simple click of the shutter. Standard techniques and even digital capabilities consistently disappoint me. The image never fully reflects what I “saw” or felt. I use multiple exposures on film to record a more accurate picture of how we can recall time transpiring.
Johnjoe McFadden believes that consciousness is an electromagnetic field which escapes (or enters) the body through the synaptic gaps between neurons: “The theory solves many previously intractable problems of consciousness and could have profound implications for our concepts of mind, free will, spirituality, the design of artificial intelligence, and even life and death,” he said.
-Johnjoe McFadden, School if Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Surrey (UK)
Dan. A neurosurgeon once compared the human brain to the bridge on the Starship Enterprise. He could map a brain, identifying all the control systems. He was amazed at how effective this mapping process could be—it explained almost everything. But he was troubled by one fact—he could never find Captain Kirk. He couldn’t locate the force that activated the controls. The thing that pushes the buttons. The real seat of consciousness.
Professor McFadden’s idea that consciousness is really an electromagnetic field is striking. If true, that would shed new light on a lot of mysteries. In fact, we know that light itself is an electromagnetic (EM) phenomenon. Think about a current theme in sci-fi relating to near death experience: “go to the light,” [Ghost Whisperer] or “stay away from the light.” [Poltergeist] Or religious references “I am the light…” Carl Jung would also be pleased. An EM field would go a long way in explaining his collective unconscious. “My thesis then, is as follows: in addition to our immediate consciousness, there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature…” [Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung]. That could be our personal EM interacting with a broader ‘collective,’ or even a universal EM field.
The idea that consciousness might be an electromagnetic field certainly addresses a lot of issues. It might also help explain savants, psychic phenomenon like telepathy, meditation, ghosts, auras, and psychokinesis—to the extent any of those are real. Am I my body—or is my body just something I inhabit? If I’m more than my body—then what, and where am I? In a sense an artist like Leah Oates deals with questions like this. The apparent abstraction of images created with multiple exposure could be a subconscious attempt to portray something our “rational,” intuitive mind just can’t grasp—much less put into words.
Let’s face facts—above all else photography is a process dealing with light. So, if consciousness is somehow tied-into this electromagnetic force, then photography is clearly recording consciousness at one level—or many. The idea of consciousness spilling out of an individual’s brain and mixing into a wider context or environment is a compelling idea. Can my multiple exposure technique help to unveil a better understanding of consciousness? I’m not sure. But I do know that at the heart of this art are feelings that cannot be expressed in words—or even concepts we currently embrace.
“The world thus appears to be a complicated tissue of events in which connections of different kinds alternate, overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole. All phenomenon are processes, connections, all is in flux, and at moments this flux is visible.”
Dan. There’s a well-worn cliché dealing with progress—“thinking outside the box.” It may be overused as a metaphor, but the action precedes every major breakthrough in science and technology. Copernicus; Galileo; Newton; Einstein; Bohr and others broke the barriers of the state-of-the-art thinking of their times. And the metaphor applies to art as well—Da Vinci; Michelangelo; Monet; Picasso; Adams; Avedon and others broke visual barriers and rewrote the definition of art and the way it communicates. I find it ironic that, so often science and art cross paths intersecting at ‘philosophy.’ They both dig deep into the essence of reality searching for meaning that escapes prevailing intuition. I challenge the reader to look more deeply and ponderously into the art of Leah Oates. The message that emerges may just be more than aesthetic (and it certainly is that)—it may be a fresh glimpse into the true nature of reality.
'Layers' at Newark's City Without Walls
The Star Ledger
August 25, 2014 by Dan Bischoff
“Layers,” the summer show at City Without Walls gallery in Newark through almost the end of August, is on the surface an exhibit about technique: Art that lays one brushstroke, or found image, or film exposure atop another qualifies as “layered.” Aimee Hertog, the artist who came up with the idea for the show, paints what resemble Abstract Expressionist pictures that build watercolor, oil, acrylic, really whatever comes to hand, in clearly distinguishable strata.
But layered can also apply to Amy Swartele’s hyper-surreal oil “The Watcher Watched,” with its built-up impasto, or to Luisa Mesa’s collages covered in thick clear resin, in which she has embedded early-20th century photos of her family in bright, patterned mindscapes studded with rhinestones. Mesa is Cuban-American, and lives in Florida.
“I’m fascinated by the passage of time and how it changes your relationships,” Hertog says, “and Luisa’s work is about her ancestors—it’s layered physically, with the found objects she uses in her collages, by the resin, which sort of freezes everything, and by time.
“I think the spiritual poetry of the show is what makes it cohesive,” Hertog continues. “I started with four artists, including myself, whom I wanted to bring together, and Luisa was one. Regina Walker’s photos of peeling posters and paint on New York City walls was a beautiful example of layering in our environment, and April Zanne Johnson’s oil paintings on plexiglass are all about depths and layers of paint.”
City Without Walls is now a virtual community of artists, and Hertog opened the idea to submissions. Out of 30 or so finalists she finally chose 14 artists. Some are graduates—Johnson, for example--of the Montclair State arts program, which is having a bigger impact every year in local art circles. Others attended Bennington, where Hertog studied. What they all brought to that original core of four artists was a completely novel way to think of layering, often beyond two dimensions.
Christine Soccio’s “Hyper” is a good example. Soccio, another Montclair State graduate, places a score or more eyeball-sized spotlights mounted on flexible metal necks around a cube of wavy glass in the center of an empty room. The lights turn the walls into static sponges of wobbly light, as if reflected off water onto the roof of a cave.
Liz Mitchell, born in Morristown and a familiar in the Newark/CWOW orbit, shows her block-printed butterflies on Japanese paper, cut out and folded like a real insect, clustering on a dress pattern suspended from the center of the gallery. The installation dominates the room, the butterflies clustering like Monarchs on a tree branch.
Leah Oates, who runs a gallery in Manhattan, shows a series of photographs taken in Beijing that she calls “Transitory Spaces”—buildings or lots that are either being torn down or abandoned but about to be redeveloped. To convey a much more indefinite sense of time passing than Mesa, Oates layers exposures in the camera that show a landscape seeming to transform in front of your eyes. In a place like Beijing, which was undergoing a pre-Olympics boom in 2008-9, when these pictures were taken, time and the landscape seemed to be collapsing under the pressure of constant construction.
Oates also represents what Hertog calls a growing dissatisfaction in art circles with the “flatness” and ease of PhotoShop, which has become so familiar in design it now delivers a stencil-like sameness. Matt Roberts, for example, says he’s largely a digital photographer, but he also uses a hand-made process that allows multiple layering of near-transparent images that suggest, in their rubbed-out look, decay or peeling. His portrait of Bill Clinton definitely has a certain Dorian Gray quality.
The shift in focus from works like these, with their double-meaning puns on “layering,” to art where the term is entirely technically descriptive, as it is of Leslie Ford’s series of 12-inch-square grid patterns built up out of layers of semi-transparent encaustic (melted, tinted beeswax), is a kind of jazz in your head.
In a way, the gallery is taking the “Layers” concept to the streets: This summer, as part of its Yarn City Project, CWOW is teaching table-top weaving in the gallery, and the students have been “yarn bombing” Lincoln Park a block away, wrapping the trunks of trees with bands—think of them as multi-colored sleeves--of woven yarn.
Photographs Of Transitory Spaces
June 11, 2013 by Stacy Dacheux
Boston born and Brooklyn based, Leah Oates, examines how wires cross between elapsed worlds, over time, abstracting the most mundane views into beautifully muddled masses of illuminated energy.
Comparable to dust settling, each seemingly frenetic thread of line and light eventually condenses and glides into an artful circadian rhythm, conceptually, awaking a reaction or need to absorb the shock of our own projected velocities.
Of her work, Oates states, “Transitory spaces have a messy human energy that is always in the present yet constantly changing. Oates states "I find them endlessly interesting, alive places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility. They are temporary monuments to the ephemeral nature of existence.”
Momenta Art, Brooklyn, New York
December 9-January 22, 2012
The group exhibition "Broken Homes'" at Momenta Gallery in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn freatured artists from the United States and England who work in a variety of media, including sculpture, photography, and video installation. The twenty-four pieces of artwork in the show offered a myriad of perspectives on the idea of home.
Leah Oates's work exposes inner strife. Her-Building Face'' series (2004 - 05) includes a photograph of objects thrown out of a Taipei window during a domestic squabble: a ballet slipper, a cap gun, and colorful plastic toys. The objects are overturned and devoid of their original innocence, now meaningless and mixed with dead leaves.
Another of Oates's photographs from the "Building Face" series shows a cart loaded up with bundles of salvaged cardboard to be sold, the cardboard piled high and protruding from the sides of the can, making the cart appear anemic despite being motor-driven. The feeble cart, stocked with scavenged materials and surrounded by a bustling Taipei, evokes the difficulty of subsistence, but hope lingers in the effort to obtain value from discarded materials.
Elements take centre stage in photography show
New England-born photographer Leah Oates is one of the contributors to Earth, Sea and In Between
The elements take centre stage in a new group show Earth, Sea and Inbetween, including New England-born photographer Leah Oates at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, New York from September 1. Oates explores the natural landscape and human interaction with it by overlapping negatives of forests and skylines with images of telephone wires and road signs.
Describing her photography, Oates says, "The work I create first originates as a response to sites and objects that are ignored such as piles of trash, alleyways, overpasses or abandoned structures. In most instances the locations that I have shot in are not desirable travel destinations, are generally working class and are in industrial areas. This type of space has a personal resonance for me as I grew up in a very similar location in New England. I have a strong emotional connection, knowledge and familiarity with this kind of locality and want to document it in all of its poignant beauty."
Leah Oates: Capturing Unconventional Beauty
Artist, Leah Oates, will present her work in an upcoming show at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, New York. The exhibition, “Earth, Sea and In Between,” will feature works exploring natural landscapes using unique processes to illustrate movement, form and human interaction with the elements. Oates’ photography responds to sites and objects that are often ignored and articulates the effects of social processes and consumption on the landscape. Her work captures the beauty in the unconventional and the undesirable, and epitomizes the saying, "what is one man's trash is another man's treasure."
In her website biography, Oates states, “The work I create first originates as a response to sites and objects that are ignored such as piles of trash, alleyways, overpasses or abandoned structures. In most instances the locations that I have shot in are not desirable travel destinations, are generally working class and are in industrial areas. This type of space has a personal resonance for me as I grew up in a very similar location in New England. I have a strong emotional connection, knowledge and familiarity with this kind of locality and want to document it in all of its poignant beauty."
Arsenal Gallery, Central Park, NYC
Transitory Space, an exhibition featuring multiple exposure photography by New York-based artist Leah Oates, includes recent photographs from her ongoing series that portrays the complex relationships between humans and nature.
The exhibition focuses on Oates’ travels to Beijing, Newfoundland, and New York’s own Van Cortlandt Park and Pelham Bay Park, highlighting the delicate balance between the natural and built environment. Her photographs are lush and at times disquieting, as she documents the breadth of man’s imprint on nature.
Oates’ photographs of New York City parks portray the unexpected beauty of primeval forests and natural botanicals thriving in the cityscape. Her use of multiple exposure photography translates particularly well in her photographs of Newfoundland’s power lines: multiple apertures fuse the lines and branches together making them indistinguishable from each other. A less symbiotic relationship between manmade and organic environments is depicted in her haunting photographs of Chinese hutongs. These historic alleyways condemned for future paved roads and high-rises have been reclaimed in the interim by nature. The sites in Transitory Space are in a constant state of unrest—flush with “messy human energy”—and complicated bonds between individuals and their surroundings.
Leah Oates: Layered Moments in Time
Architects and Artisans
24. JAN, 2013
She shoots with film, and prints on paper. Fuji, to be precise, since Kodak’s no longer making what she prefers. Her cameras include a Pentax K1000 (her workhorse, she says) and a Mamiya 645E.
She studied with a painter at the Rhode Island School of Design, doing paintings of photographs, before she realized that she was in fact, a photographer. Now, Leah Oates arrives at her art form through the lens of her cameras.
Her work is comprised of layered landscapes, exposed between one and seven times through different cameras, in an attempt to capture the vitality, beauty and magic of nature. She’ll shoot first with the Pentax, then follow up with the Mamiya, then another and another.
The result is subject matter, some of it architectural, that almost moves inside an invented wilderness.“I grew up in Maine in a wild environment,” she says. “I like nature that’s untamable.”
This is not Ansel Adams. She doesn’t seek to capture a moment frozen in time – in fact, she’s looking for just the opposite. “I’m trying to capture time transpired,” she says. “It’s more of what it’s like to remember a moment – a layered experience, not just one moment.”
Photography, she says, is about the nature of time, about trying to capture time and meanings and perceptions.
“I’m trying to get how I remember the time – and to make the content more realistic,” she says.
She shoots in Beijing, in Canada, in Chicago and in New York, mostly in remote parts of the cities, like parks where there are no people.
Still, her images evoke human emotions. “They’re poetic and beautiful, and some, a little melancholy”
Indeed. But they’re structured too, and tactile in their own way.
Oates’ “Transitory Space” To Open At College Gallery
CRANFORD – From Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, the exhibition, “Transitory Space” by artist Leah Oates, will be on display at Union County College’s Tomasulo Gallery. Oates’ work is a collection of images from time she spent in Beijing, China, Newfoundland, Canada, and Chicago, Illinois in 2008.
Oates describes the photographs in this exhibition as, “…dreamy and haunted and creates mutant forms that come into existence through a fusion of landscape and urban elements and the subjective eye of the photographer.”
Oates uses double exposures of her photographs in order to , “…play with the ideas of time, multiple memories, and how we reconstruct place, time, and moments.” This double exposure process causes, “… a blurring of moments and locations into one image that captures the essence of place and of time passing quickly and in a state of flux.”
Oates feels, “Transitory spaces have a messy human energy which is always in the present yet constantly changing.” She, “…finds them endlessly interesting, alive places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility. They are temporary monuments to the ephemeral nature of human existence in a constant state of change.”
The images in this exhibition are from her time spent in Beijing, China and Newfoundland, Canada in 2008. During the same year, she also attended residencies at the Ragdale Foundaiton in Illinois, the Caldera Foundation in Oregon, and The Taipei Arts Village in Taiwan. She has also received several awards including a Fulbright Fellowship of study in Scotland, two grants from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and an Artists Grant from Artist Space in New York City.
In February 2009, her work was included in a group exhibition entitled, “Trouble in Paradise” that was curated by Julie Sasse at the Tucson Museum of Art in Arizona. Other artists whose works were in this exhibition include Mitch Epstein, Kim Keever, Richard Misrach, Edward Burtynsky, and Thomas Ruff. Oates’ work was also featured at the Pool Art Fair and the Bridge Art Fair in New York City and was reviewed by New York Arts Magazine.
Oates’ works on paper are in many public collections, including the National Museum of Women in the Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The British Library, The Walker Art Center Libraries, The Smithsonian Libraries, and the Franklin Furnace Archive at the Museum of Modern Art.
Oates holds a bachelor of fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and a masters of fine arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She resides and works in Brooklyn, New York. She has had solo shows at venues such as the Real Art Ways, A Taste of Art Gallery, Sara Nightingale Gallery, and the Sol Mednick Gallery at the Philadelphia University of the Arts.
THE BROKEN HOME SHOW @ Momenta Art
By Marina Galperina
Building off the notion of home, community and trouble within, “from Tea Party definitions of marriage to Occupy Wall Street tent cities,” Momenta Art’s group show “Broken Homes” deals with ruptures in domestic spaces, physical and metaphorical.
Highlights: Leah Oates’ images of boarded up buildings and carts of salvaged trash, rattling though haphazardly urbanized Taipei and Anthony Marchetti’s unsympathetic, documentary style portraits of vacated suburban tract homes and the trash left behind.
More trash. It seems to go along with the notion of a broken home — what falls out when order is shaken, what’s left when tenants leave — it’s all waste. Or is that reading into it? Interpret for yourself: “Broken Homes,” Group Show, Dec 9 – Jan 22, Momenta Art, NYC
By Gregory Minissale
How is horror vacui the fear of emptiness and by extension the annihilation of space shaping contemporary culture? Are the Internet, globalization, the unlimited blitz of advertising and visual saturation products of an obsessive, gargantuan consumption of space? How far is it possible not to have our eyelids pinned back by the visual bombardment of images and sound bites in the space of the everyday? This issue of Drain considers not only the politics of carbon monoxide, the cellular phone, urban sprawl, and the insatiable desire for producing and buying objects that drain environmental resources; it also examines how these are represented. Are claustrophobia (or agoraphobia) by-products of the overcrowding of our world by too many ideas, bodies, objects, waste products and insatiable desires compacted into mountains of repression and greed? Has contemporary cultural and artistic practice retreated into the heart of the horror vacui? And is manic speech in film, non-stop music, techno-babble, the squeezing out of the pause in Rap, the 24/7 scenario in media news, examples of the capture of speech and music by the horror vacui or protests against it?
Leah Oates’s photographs of Transitory Spaces, articulate the amassed banality of the trace and by-products from social processes and consumption. The patterns in this underworld are parts of a map of history outside of the frame, seemingly infinite in its unstoppable self-reproduction, extensive in all domains of human action and spatial potential, and reflected equally in the detritus it leaves behind, traces of personality, micro-movements of identity, and configurations of anonymity. In an asphyxiation of content by form, the photograph literally squeezes out space to imitate the squeezing out of human figures, and of the processes that create this waste. This is both the utter fullness of the sign (the lack of space in the representation) as it tracks the utter fullness of the signified (infinite and bottomless waste), leaving no space in-between sign or signified.
The photograph blots out the past that it represents by deluding us that it is the present. Yet this photography is more than representation and illustration, it is also in a sense, an actualization of recycling, creating new matter from old, and recycling the past. It also transposes the cycle of consumption to the process of visual consumption, recycling the real and marginalized, the out of sight and out of mind into a recombinant aesthetics.