Imboden's new work pursues a world beyond the senses

Arts: museums, literature

December 11, 2003|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Connie Imboden's photographs on view this month at Gomez Gallery are both precise visual records of events and poetic metaphors for the consciousness that perceives those events.

Imboden has been photographing the human form for nearly two decades, beginning with her early studies of the body in water and later evolving into her elaborate studio depictions of the nude photographed through broken or half-silvered mirrors. Throughout this large and consistent body of work, she has fashioned a vision of reality that is both a dense structure of visual illusions and a key to the invisible reality of the psyche.

The approximately 30 works in the current show include some two dozen works completed since 2001. All of them were done in the artist's Hampden studio, a cavernous space lit by strategically placed lights mounted above the large, half-silvered mirror through which Imboden photographs her models.

Sometimes she attaches additional shards to the surface, allowing her to further fragment and distort her images of the body.

Imboden has always insisted that her work was not intended merely to shock, but rather to prod viewers into a deeper appreciation of the often mysterious processes that make up human consciousness - what she calls the "dark side" of dreams and unconscious desires. Imboden's "dark side" is not evil but simply invisible and therefore unknown, though its existence is ever manifest in human behavior.

Still, many people find some of her images profoundly disturbing, perhaps because we have been taught to fear the unknown even when its influence may be benign. Because Imboden believes the "dark side" holds the possibility for greater self-understanding, it is for her the key to realizing the potential that is in all of us, both for good and ill.

Many of the images have a mythical quality, as if they were drawn from fables or fairy tales, themselves one of the richest sources of archetypes representing the collective unconscious. One thinks of Minotaurs, fauns, nymphs and Furies - the literary embodiments of the primal passions which all of us share even in our technologically advanced, psychologically repressed age.

Imboden's pictures are an invitation to examine the world not as it appears to the senses, but as it is constituted in the mind and engaged by the soul, whose voyage through eternity is their true subject. The distortions and fragmentation of her imagery are merely means to an end, what the Romantics called the "derangement of the senses" needed to break through the limitations of conventional seeing. If what lies beyond that veil of appearances seems frightening or strange, it is, for Imboden, at least, only because we have not yet learned to accept all that we already are.

The exhibit continues through Monday at Gomez Gallery, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 410-662-9510.

For more art events, turn to Page 44.

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