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Exotica: Photographs by Sally Grizzell Larson
January 21 - March 6, 2005
(above: Sally Grizzell Larson, No. 12, 2004, lambda print, 25 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artist.)
In the lush new work in this exhibition, Collegeville-based photographer Sally Grizzell Larson is concerned with how the lure of the beautiful and exotic can evoke and comment on a culture of post-colonial desire, appropriation, and acquisition. The show is rich and deep with references drawn from the history of art, the history of textiles and furnishings, and the traces of material culture from around the world. It both demonstrates and interrogates the illusionism of photography. Larson creates a commentary that is sociological, philosophical, and political in nature, presenting a visual feast for the eyes that through its irresistible sensuousness -- and in the tradition of still life paintings -- celebrates objects in their environment while making haunting reference to the influence of the human beings absent from the scene. (right: Sally Grizzell Larson, No. 92, 2004, lambda print, 27 1/2 x 30 in. Courtesy of the artist.)
The artist describes her premise for this new series of lambda prints as follows:
The exhibition will be on view at the Museum through March 6, 2005.. An opening reception will take place on Sunday, January 30, from 3:00 5:30 pm.
Exotica Lambda prints, 2004 and A Note On Process
by Sally Grizzell Larson
We in the West have always felt the compulsion to collect and preserve artifacts of the exotic, and in turn have been quick and efficient in transforming the once authentic into an artificial and standardized experience, often for the purpose of constructing the illusion of a personal sense of high style and worldliness. The journey from ordinary to seemingly exotic is often and easily mediated by a third party in the form of interior designers and/or architects purveyors of taste who reciprocate influence with the editors of the glossy publications that help shape our desires and set the tone for the unattainable perfection of this romanticized and self-gratifying fiction.
Unlike 16th-18th-century European cabinets of curiosity, which, with their specimens of natural objects more often than not elicited knowledge and wonder (though these, too, were a luxurious diversion for the elite), these contemporary tableaux remain exclusively ornamental. The presence of an ostrich egg on a living room bookshelf might suggest trips abroad, but is in fact a prop, a department store purchase made for a client by an interior designer who has a certain "look" in mind.
Just as the simple act of drawing a map can give an overview and assumptive territorial control, the act of transforming the domestic space into one with a fabricated sense of the exotic is reminiscent of colonial appropriations. In this instance, however, the colonization is accomplished without the personal commitment of arduous physical currency. As a result, the original, messy colonial experience, for example, becomes abstract and marginalized to the point of inconsequence an example of our taste inadvertently reflecting the history of our imperial politics.
A Note On Process
Photography is a means by which we "point out" something to others -- an observation, an idea. It is a subtractive medium in which the "observed" is taken from the real world and indexed, through optics, chemistry, and now pixels, as an artifact of that observation. It is one way we universally bear witness to the world around us.
The images are recorded not as truth, but as reflections of the selective experiences and biases of the photographer and/or editor who tailors the pictures to assert or support a particular vision. It is the varying levels of finesse and insight by which this process is performed that I find compelling, and what I, as a photographer, hope to point out.
For this series, I have scanned, selectively and prudently edited, and reprinted images taken directly from interior design magazines (specifically, Architectural Digest, Veranda, and House & Garden) to propose a stringent commentary on issues of class, taste, privilege, and history.
What interests me about these tableaux is how the layers of narrative merge to produce an unintentional master narrative (that is, unintentionally produced through the combined choices of the magazine editor, the photographer, the homeowner, and the interior designer) that reflects a certain connoisseurship, social disposition, and financial means. The parts can always be read discretely, individually and without regard to context; however, my primary concern centers on the gestalt of the choices made in creating these domestic environments and all they implicate.
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