Through Jan. 29. Noon-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. (Jan. 8-10, by
appointment.) Emory Visual Arts Gallery, 700 Peavine Creek Drive.
404-727-6315. www. visualarts.emory.edu.
By Catherine Fox
“Home” is one of those four-letter words that can mean a lot of things.
One family’s sanctum of domestic tranquility and emotional comfort is another’s prison of suffering and alienation. There’s home as architecture: the body that houses the spirit, the housing that builds neighborhoods and cities. And, especially notable in a year of foreclosures and the swelling ranks in temporary shelters, there’s home as a symbol of economic woe and personal loss.
Twenty-six artists from across the country demonstrate the concept’s elasticity in “Picturing Home,” an engaging exhibition at the Emory Visual Arts Gallery. Part of the gallery’s yearlong focus on photography, it is the only juried exhibition of the series. Emory professor Jason Francisco and High Museum curator Julian Cox shaped a show from the 700 entries that encompasses a variety of formal and technical approaches, including books, as well as interpretations.
The most literal and most elegant incarnation is Christa Kreeger Bowden’s photo-and-encaustic image celebrating the architectural wonder of a bird’s nest. Moving further afield, Eric White introduces the notion of homeland, as in Homeland Security, in his photographs of a border fence in Arizona. Karen Tauches draws a rainbow house on a photo of an empty lot in East Atlanta, from a series of “Disappeared Houses,” a commentary on urban development.
The urge to nest is trenchantly evoked in the carefully tended yard that abuts the sludgy mounds of detritus representing the ravages of the mining industry in Ray Klimek’s “Swoyersville, Pennsylvania.”
Joelle Jensen’s “Bambi’s Portrait” and two images from George Bedell’s “Trading Spaces” series continue the theme. A family portrait hangs over a fake hearth in the former, a middle-class version. A migrant worker has drawn a home on the cinder block wall above his cot in one of Bedell’s photos, a poignant document of living conditions, homesickness and the will to feather even temporary nests.
Going against expectations, Don Chambers’ portraits of the very different faces of homelessness are images of dignity and resilience.
The people posing for the camera decorate their bodies, if not their homes, as expressions of selfhood.
Joshua Dudley Greer’s affectionate “Bed Bug” exemplifies home as family, another abiding theme here. The black-and-white photo captures a child in a semi-backward somersault on an unmade bed. The double-take-inducing headless figure makes for a sweetly surreal image.
Michael Marfione’s digitally manipulated “Memory 5” is also on the surreal side, but to an entirely different effect. A series of frames — door, window, picture — discombobulates the space and evokes notions of looking to the past and voyeurism. The view is of a fleshy woman in a bathtub and a little boy, naked but for socks, who might be trapped in a glass shower stall, in the next room. Freud would have a field day.
In sum, the exhibition is a thoughtful and affecting look at the many interpretations, memories and meanings of “home.”