Death. Suffering. Self-image. These ideas and more are explored by Boston artists Bebe Beard and Linda Leslie Brown in new digital-based work in Projecting in Light, which was on view at Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Casella Gallery. The show is comprised of digital projections and drawings by Beard and Iris prints and lightbox installations by Brown. The overall feeling is of a coherent dialogue about self-representation and literal and metaphorical drowning. The small scale of the gallery enhances this feeling and creates a sense of intimacy.
Beard’s Water Portraits are a series of four digital videos projected onto blind contour self-portraits. The videos depict the shadow of Beard’s head and upper body “floating” on the surface of a lake or pond. Although the intermittently visible camera and the artist’s real hand skimming the surface of the water help to dispel the illusion, intimations of drowning persist. The longest projection features a wonderfully dissonant original score by Lou Cohen and a piece of dark glass that mimics a body of water, as if a puddle had somehow formed on the floor of the gallery. Expressive almost to the point of being grotesque, the blind contour drawings suggest a meaning of “projection” beyond that of the digital variety. Beard’s videos induces a trance-like effect, an almost overwhelming sensation that is in part created by the movement of the water and is further enhanced by her handiwork in editing the series.
Like Beard’s videos, Brown’s Iris prints and lightbox installations also began as introspective character studies. The Iris prints that comprise Brown’s series titled The Mourners are, like the lightbox installations, digital collages of Brown’s face combined with exposed flesh and bone. “The Mourners” show evidence of having been further altered with materials like resin and salt that give them a painterly, if not sculptural, feel. The microphones hanging in front of each of the “faces” are meant to represent the world media, yet they also seem to be Brown’s way of giving unknown victims of senseless violence a voice—hers. This is reinforced by the artist’s use of her own image as a starting point for each of the prints. The Dead are similar to The Mourners in that they juxtapose Brown’s self-portrait with flesh and bone. However, they differ in that Brown has surrounded the lightboxes with sumptuous gauze pods that initially conceal the horror inside. Crystals, again a luxurious material, hang directly above each pod to symbolize the viewer’s tear, a concept that is intriguing if slightly distracting. The Mourners and The Dead both function as memento mori, beautiful and horrifying at the same time.
Undermined by a flood of media images and news, we are metaphorically drowning and no single dissident voice can be clearly heard. The idea of drowning is suggested in Beard’s work as a physical event, while it is symbolized in Brown’s installation by microphones. Reflecting a similar reactive sensibility akin to 20th century German Expressionists, Beard’s digital projections are deeply introspective, while Brown is expressing, among other things, her current frustration over responses to contemporary world events.
"Projecting in Light" was on view from March 21-April 30 at Casella Gallery, Wentworth Institute of Technology in the Annex Auditorium, 550 Parker St., Boston.
All images are courtesy of the artists and the Casella Gallery, WIT.