by Valerie Valentine
Human histories are told in stories passed from one generation to the next. The telling can come in the form of written traditions, oral traditions or song. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we have photographs, and more recently, home video, to capture our families’ chronicles. In addition to all this, families share genetic codes that link physical traits and personality characteristics. Delving even deeper, some scientists claim that our DNA carries collective memories and formative experiences. The experiments of Angie Buckley’s photography explore the literal and mystical side of ancestry through visual expression, grounding these abstract interpretations of the past and present to geography.
Place is a huge determining factor for group identity. Buckley acknowledges
locality by placing her subjects in vast, sprawling landscapes. Mostly the artist
uses cutouts of existing photographs, shrinking the human figures to tiny, fairy-like
proportions, or enlarging them to life-size. These cutouts are then situated
within a specific locale.
In “Virtue,” a teensy
photo cutout figure holding an axe is placed among vegetation. The original
photo from which the cutout was taken floats in the foreground. It appears that
the figure is going to liberate her sister from the photo, and then the little
pair will axe the forest. The suggestion is humorously absurd, with a serious
undertone about the major destructive impact that humans (a “tiny”
percentage of the world’s life forms) have wrought on the greatness of
the natural world.
In “He Closed His Eyes,” a cutout of a man in traditional dress
holds two large fish at the edge of a modern swimming pool. The historical costume
juxtaposes wildly with the slick edges of the glimmering pool and contemporary
architecture of the building beyond it. This contrast suggests that throughout
the years lives and circumstances may vary, but the past lives on within each
succeeding generation. Further, the context of a man fishing from a purified,
chlorinated pool is laughable. Buckley notes the gradual transition from laborers
to leisure class, as well as the environment’s modification from organic
and natural to man-made and sterile.
Buckley’s technique playfully experiments with dimension, exposure and
focus. As with any experimental series, some photographs succeed and some struggle
for meaning. The ones that work are carefully constructed, with an eye on detail.
The blurred ghosts of the more abstract images still haunt the mind’s
corners, however. Buckley exhibits work with a solid thematic core that’s
easily applied to the lives of her audiences. ||
Angie Buckley Photography runs through June 1 at Larson
Art Gallery, U of M, St. Paul Campus, 2017 Buford Ave., St. Paul, 612-625-0214.
Gallery hours until May 12 are Mon.–Wed. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Thu. 10
a.m.–8 p.m. & Fri. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Beginning May 16 gallery hours are Mon.–Wed. 10 a.m.–3 p.m.; Thu.
noon–6 p.m. & Fri. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Closed Saturday and Sunday.