You Look at Me Like an Emergency

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© Courtesy of the artist & Robin Rice Gallery
You Look at Me Like an Emergency

325 West 11th Street
New York, NY 10014-6223
November 14th, 2012 - December 30th, 2012
Opening: November 14th, 2012 5:00 PM - 8:30 PM

greenwich/west village
(212) 366-6660
Wednesday–Sunday12–7 p.m. Monday–Tuesday closed
text, photography


The Robin Rice Gallery announces, “You Look at Me Like an Emergency,” Cig Harvey’s photographic and free-writing installation inspired by her best selling book. This is Harvey's third solo show at the Robin Rice Gallery.  The opening reception will be held on Wednesday November 7th from 5:30pm to 8:30pm, with an artist talk and book signing to follow on Saturday November 10th at 3:00pm. The show runs through December 30th, 2012. 

When the viewer steps into the Robin Rice Gallery they are transported to a different medium. The room is set up to mimic the book, inviting the viewer to walk through its pages. The phrase, “You Look at Me Like an Emergency,” shouts in white hand written script against the back red wall, replicating the cover. Photographs of varying scale line the walls salon style and free-writing excerpts run along the chair rails, telling of Harvey’s universally poignant story: One of relationship failures, falling in love and adjusting to motherhood. Through vivid color and perfect composition of family, friends, found objects and the artist herself, we are seduced.  

When asked to explain the book title, Harvey says it’s in response to a look her soon-to-be-husband gave her. One full of such passionate intent it bordered on alarm. In that precise moment, she knew she was falling in love with him.   

As the protagonist of her tale, we see Harvey standing alone in vintage dresses. She chooses them specifically because they lend themselves to a different time. Tapping into the universal, her face and the faces of her subjects are often obstructed, allowing the viewer to create their own story. The images are typically physical close-ups, intensely vibrant and ethereal. In “The Velvet Settee,” Harvey’s niece lay slightly twisted on a small velvet couch. She’s illuminated with such depth we can feel the plush fibers bend beneath her skin—the effect is as dreamlike as the drowsy expression on her face. In the invitational image, “The Pale Cadillac,” a young girl stares out the window of a vintage car. Beyond the composition what’s most visually arresting is her gaze, both brave and challenging. Each image leaves us restless, disturbed, always wanting to know more. 

Through masterful use of her Hasselblad, Harvey transforms self-portraits and ordinary objects into the extraordinary. She strives to capture the real in the purest fashion, choosing to create beauty “in camera,” dispelling the need for post-production nuance. She is a visual painter, creating images that shimmer with hue and gesture, that have punctuation and staccato. She uses color as her magic wand to haunt and seduce.  “I take pictures because it puts me on a dock at 5:00AM in the moonlight, or in a field of fireflies at dusk, or on a channel marker in the middle of the Atlantic, it's moments like these that remind me that the world is magical.”

Harvey’s work has been referenced as a sort of photographic Maira Kalman, an artist whose work is “a narrative journal of her life and all its absurdities.” When it came to creating the You Look at Me Like an Emergency book, Designer, Deb Wood took on the initiative with great care, blending hand written text and imagery together to tell Harvey’s story, or as the protagonist claims, her “book of secrets.”  You Look At Me Like An Emergency has been on Photo Eye’s the best seller list for seven weeks and received critical acclaim by PDN, La Lettre, Blink, Aesthethica, Boston Globe, Lenscratch, Acurator, Fotografi and The Independent on Sunday.

Cig Harvey was born in England in 1973. She fell in love with photography at the age of thirteen, studied the craft, and later received her MFA. She now lives on the coast of Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. A dedicated mentor, she teaches workshops in Santa Fe and The Maine workshops and lectures at institutions around the world. She was an Assistant Professor of Photography at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. Her first major solo show opened in March 2012, at the Stenersen Museum in Oslo, Norway. Her work has been held in permanent collections of notable museums including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY. Harvey also collaborates on commercial projects for high profile clients such as New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Japan and Kate Spade.