Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. If we turn to theories on the
aesthetics of art, we find a plethora of standpoints. Our understanding of beauty, and
the creative expression of it, is not only multifarious, but changeable. It’s hard to believe
that Impressionism, now held in high aesthetic esteem, was once scoffed at by critics
when first exhibited. Whether we determine beauty in art on the basis of craftsmanship,
emotive response, cultural dictum or social norm, it continues to be a highly contentious
Throw into this mix the concept of ‘strange‘—something that is curious, unfamiliar,
atypical, eccentric, uncomfortable and even perplexing, then ‘strange beauty’ confronts
us with a most formidable scenario indeed! One might say that the exhibition concept—
or theme—is actually one of contradiction.
This exhibition of photographs, curated on this basis, was therefore an arduous and yet
wonderfully stimulating undertaking.
Liz Hicock’s photographs, of the San Francisco urbanscape, are fabricated from molded
Jello-O and photographed with refracted light that renders them into a luminous,
kaleidoscopic wonderland. The photographs themselves are decisively assembled,
presenting an unconventional vision that expands the lexicon of the constructed image
in contemporary photography.
The link between the image as evidence and as an extension of imagination is explored
and questioned. Unmistakable examples of this can be seen in the images of Jonas
Kuilkauskas, Shelia Layton and Marita Gootee.
Andrea Land presents a somewhat more understated, quiet approach in her
photographs of young girls. In her meticulous compositions of domestic spaces, she
choreographs the subjects in order to project their world of ‘make believe’ and the
temporality of childhood. The subdued color palette further extends the notion of an
insular dream state.
Together, all of the selected images address the visceral features of beauty, subverted
by a range of curiosities—orientation of subjects within the frame, representations of
gender and the body, light, color and vantage point. In one way or another, the
photographers’ images counteract viewer expectation.
Darren Ching and Debra Klomp Ching