The Boston Herald

Friday, June 7, 2002

Photo exhibit makes you feel at `Home'
Visual Arts/by Joanne Silver


Two yellow apples sit on a white serving platter like twin suns in a formless cosmos. One is puckering inside plastic wrap. The other, less wilted, remains unshrouded. This color photograph, ``Preservation II'' by Sonia Targontsidis, records an incidental moment in the life of the artist's family. Along with glimpses of her brother wrapping a present, her mother opening the front door to the morning sun, and her father caught in the glare of a light bulb, the view of apples helps flesh out Targontsidis' photographic portrait of home.
Her home has little - and everything - in common with the other domestic spaces in ``Almost Home,'' at Brockton's Fuller Museum of Art through Sept. 8. Despite a variety of cultures and aesthetics, the 10 emerging artists selected for this evocative exhibition all address one of the universal features of human existence. Humble or lavish, comforting or troubled, home looms large in the imagination. Even those photographers who focus only on a water-stained corner of ceiling, a kitchen window shade or a stray sock are excavating charged terrain.
``Should we have stayed at home, wherever that may be?'' the poet Elizabeth Bishop once wrote. This exhibition suggests that both inquiries continue forever as questions - since it is impossible to leave home completely, and just as difficult to pinpoint its location. Morgan Cohen tries. His lush color photos capture the surprising sensuality of a silver drain tucked into a curve of pale pink porcelain, the atmospheric orange of a room's corner by lamplight, the dappled traces of water seeping through a ceiling's edge.
Davis Bliss' untitled color prints from her ``Domestic Debris'' series zero in on the flotsam and jetsam of daily living and, by extension, on the unseen people who have left flowered underwear on the floor and an empty shampoo bottle floating in the tub. Only objects inhabit Neeta Madahar's photographs of her apartment and her parents' home in England, but these, too, are animated by beings beyond the photographic frame.
``Couch I,'' one of the most compelling shots in the show, reveals just the midsection of the piece of furniture, where cushions of maize brocade don't quite line up. Lurking within the sunlit upholstery are reminders of the relationships that become inextricably woven into the objects from home.
A mysterious sliver of daylight lands on a well-worn staircase in one of Monique Deschaines' untitled prints. As elusive and potent as memory, the wedge of light asserts its physical presence as part of this scene. Tanja Alexia Hollander lingers on those places where realms meet: rain-spattered panes of glass, gauzy curtains, window screens made uneven by age.
In these boundaries between inside and out, private and public, darkness and light, the artist has found a perfect symbol for the process of looking. Yearning permeates Hollander's images, but it is not the contrived longing of nostalgia. Her close-up views of a screen's wire mesh or droplets on glass suggest vast unexplored reaches - in both the physical and the emotional landscape.
With the aid of a pinhole camera's long exposure, Ri Anderson documents herself in places that served as temporary homes as she traveled through South India. ``Rice Boat, Kerala Backwaters'' transforms a bedroom scene into a floating world, framed by woven rattan, where human bodies are no more substantial than the dizzying sunlight beyond a cotton curtain.
Lalla Essaydi's quasi-autobiographical photographs cross a threshold into territory at once alluring and repulsive, exotic and far too familiar to the artist. Nude women, whose bodies are covered with Arabic text written in henna, drift anonymously through the tiled and patterned rooms of a Moroccan house. As they penetrate this interior - of an actual house where Essaydi's Muslim family would send disobedient females - these inscribed figures blend in with the architecture and challenge it.
Jennifer Kodis and Kara McElhone take a more detached view of the notion of home, investigating the myths of suburbia from the exterior. Kodis' untitled black-and-white images tend toward the cliched, but she has created a powerful monolith in one photograph of the side of a house, vinyl-covered and interrupted only by a single window and the cold gaze of a satellite dish.
Without their titles, McElhones' color pictures would be little more than portraits of ordinary houses. By adding such identifiers as ``Vacant House, Dead Body Found'' and other bits of history and rumor surrounding these dwellings, the artist forces an emotional involvement on the part of the viewer. And what is home, after all, but a place that takes hold of the imagination and doesn't let go?
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Also at the Fuller: ``Along the Right of Way: Landscapes From a Train'' chronicles Rodger Kingston's 27-year photographic journey as seen from the window of an Amtrak train. Cities and swamps, fellow riders and those waiting on platforms surface in this lushly colored portrait of America.

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