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By Elin Spring
If variety is the spice of life, then Panopticon Gallery in Boston’s Kenmore Square is dishing up a great start to the New Year. “First Look” cameos tantalizing samplings of work from five photographers employing a range of practices and visions. Cate Wnek, Joshua Sariñana, JP Terlizzi, Catie Soldan and Susan de Witt serve up “First Look,” on view in the Hotel Commonwealth through March 4th, 2019.
Cate Wnek’s photographs of her children in the series “Raising Goosebumps” defy expectations, spawning a furtive tension between wonder and apprehension. While her images are visually glowing and candy-hued, Wnek’s subjects are often obscured or veiled. In this selection, water is a prominent element; its conflicting life giving versus life threatening potential embodies maternal ambivalence about life’s uncertainties. Wnek’s cunning union of terror and awe are so subtle that we are lulled by the wistful serenity of her images before being plunged into the gravity of their message.
“Image of Structure,” Joshua Sariñana’s stark, dissociative, black & white interpretations of MIT’s Stata Center – designed in the “deconstructed” style by Frank Gehry – are metaphorical extensions of a bleak emotional inner state. His deft exploitation of the building’s unusual geometric features accentuates contrasts, from the most obvious dark versus light to a more cerebral reading of the building’s solid grounding versus its bent, twisting “escape” from convention. Sariñana’s bold, surreal images of this luminous building delimited by a vast abyss become abstractions, fusing glorious outward beauty with intimations of hidden beasts.
In the face of an unsettling relationship with his immediate family, JP Terlizzi has sought kinship through “Descendants,” his mixed media journey into the fold of his loving, extended Italian family. In digital composite photographs, Terlizzi reconstructs his personal identity by taking portraits of ancestors who labored as tailors and seamstresses and literally weaving himself into the family tree by sewing glass slides bearing drops of his blood onto the photographs. In reminiscent circular images, Terlizzi embroiders a rich heritage, layering proud, formal family portraits and textured fabrics with warm, blood-red hues and threads, returning a beating heart to a storied bloodline.
Catie Soldan journeys into the past while envisioning the future in “Desert to Sea,” her recent cross-country expedition told in historic kallitypes. Embracing the pioneering spirit that propelled early settlers of the American West, Soldan chronicled her trek by picturing grand, sometimes iconic landscapes with Polaroids, then contact-printing her square or cropped round images in the kallitype process that dates to the late 1800’s. Soldan’s gold-toned kallitypes are expansive encounters on an intimate scale, imbued at once with the ethereal quality of a different era and the hope-filled dreaminess of a new tomorrow.
Susan de Witt employs the meticulous photogravure process to produce highly stylized images that convey spirit with the lean lyricism of haiku. The age-old printing process allows de Witt freedom to create layers of color, subtractive effects and abstractions that hone to the emotional range of her subject matter, primarily solo female models. In this selection, the women portray moods from pensive to silly, in chic, warm hues. De Witt’s pithy, often fanciful combination of form, texture, palette and mood divulge sage insights to complexities of womanhood.
With visions as varied as their techniques, Cate Wnek, Joshua Sariñana, JP Terlizzi, Catie Soldan and Susan de Witt offer a promising start to the New Year. Panopticon Gallery has created an exhibit deserving much more than a “First Look.”
For directions, hours and more information about this exhibit, go to: https://www.panopticongallery.com/first-look-2019/