Edith in Panama.
Photographs by Emmet Gowin.
Pace Gallery Publications, New York, 2006. 61 pp., various color and b&w illustrations, 10½x12½".
Gowin's new work is a surprising series of images that investigates place and distance in weighted, emotional terms. Handsomely reproducing the prints' rich textures and subtle colors-some of the most striking features of his images - Mariposas Nocturnas does well to amplify the creative dimensions of a truly intriguing artist.
What must first be celebrated is Gowin's genuine exploration of life through variegated processes and imagery-a multiplicity of technologies, photographic processes and visual approaches has been used to craft his dreamlike images. There is a noticeable cadence in the sequencing, which carries the viewer through somewhat divergent imagery. And, in the end, the delightful variety serves to enliven the atmosphere of magic,
mystery and earnestness. For instance, in the diptych Edith in Panama, Old and Young in a Forest, Gowin merges silhouettes with leaf forms to suggest the emergence from a cocoon. The elegant, anthropomorphic
figures face each other while floating above a backdrop inhabited by moths enveloped in a cloud of acidic greens and oranges. Here he employs the language of silhouettes to conflate notions of presence and absence, of activity and stillness. Often layered, obscured and richly textured, these images obfuscate the fact that they are finally and heartbreakingly still; they are fully committed to the printed page. This sleight-of-hand conjures a
theater of shadows, a world that is fragile and elusive, rich with gesture and allegory, and ever alive and vibrant.
Populating the frame in a variety of images-from
portraits of Edith to specimen boxes-moths serve as a running metaphor throughout the book. They are always ghostly and still, never wholly present or alive. Gowin moves through these images with sincerity and tenderness-revealing in his images what he reminds us at the end of his essay: "What we all want in our lives is 'Real, Real Beauty.'" Mariposas Nocturnas is a thoughtful and nourishing series of images in that humble pursuit of beauty. DAMON SAUER
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