This article appeared in print in the Lakeville Journal's Compass 11/14/19
|Baranova's Brutal World|
Do you crane your neck to see the car crash by the side of the road? Do you wonder at the story behind the anemic mug shot? Does your phone ping for every notification of a catastrophic headline? Tragedy and death may be among us, but a vicarious front row seat to it is an experience that is only infrequently offered.
For those of us in the Northwest corner, there is some quiet melodrama going on at the Standard Space gallery on the green in Sharon. It’s all drama, from the title of the exhibition to the stark display of medium-format color photographs. Florals march along the walls in single file.
Marina Baranova has titled the show, “This Brutal World” and, when asked about it, only says, “its beautiful too”. Baranova is Russian and was raised in Finland. She moved to New York seven years ago and specializes in portraits of performance artists. The fading flower series began between her photographic portrait shoots when she noticed flowers left in the studio bathroom by the neighboring floral designer. Baranova started bringing the limp bouquets into the portrait setting and through the lens of her Hasselblad camera, and with the natural studio light, she choreographed dark punctuations of a floral swan song.
Having just turned forty, Baranova admires the visual traces of age and comments philosophically on the rapid transformation of celebratory flowers to the tissue-like delicacy of the dying bouquet. Her photos capture a moment and thereby Baranova does her part to arrest time and halt the oblivion of death. She is memorializing life at its sensitive and vulnerable last gasp. You can hear the flowers moan and imagine the offering of forgiveness that can only happen at a deathbed of secrets.
The artist’s focus on the delicacy of dead flowers set against a backdrop of blackest black is far from dreary. The work summons up our collective memory of fresh blooms and hints at a feeling reminiscent of better times and richer moments. Perhaps they remind one of the slip-covered sitting room of an aristocratic auntie. Developed with a richness that is mesmerizing in its soft sheen, the photographs within their simple black frames, create an almost funereal procession.
There is something pure to the course of Baranova’s process. She shoots using real film and only under conditions of available natural light. The velvety black hand-printed square format type C-prints have a focus that is intensely shallow, literally forcing a bloom into focus and leaving the vase in a blur. Having recently moved to a new studio, Baranova commented that the light is no longer the same and the series is probably over. Though this may be a one-act play, don’t discount Baranova’s future. Her prowess with film displays an artist’s masterful control of the lens and our imaginations.
This Brutal World will be up through December 8th.
Standard Space is at 147 Main Street, Sharon CT
Open Friday to Sunday, noon to 6pm, or by appointment.