Art Exhibition: Stephanie Reid – Hidden Places

Photographer and collage artist Stephanie Reid’s solo show Hidden Places is on exhibit now at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin. Reid’s work is culled from the years she spent living abroad, first in Bangkok, Thailand and then on Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea.

While primarily comprised of photographs, the show also includes Photoshop collages that utilize photographs and imported handmade papers. Thematically, the show explores the contrast between the natural and the synthetic, employing brief Zen-like meditations that weigh yin and yang. For example, one photograph depicts a pile of decaying doors lying amongst greenery and vegetation. The collages, possessing natural imagery like a dead frog atop a lily pad, contrast with themselves since the medium itself is synthetic.

While the viewer’s first impression might be that the photographs represent a “realistic” version of the world and that the collages embody a view more “artificial,” one would do well to remember that photographs themselves are artificial representations. As Susan Sontag suggested in her classic work, On Photography, the photographic medium by nature presents one artificial view of a subject by using variable light, shutter speed, and angles. A photograph is a frozen instant, and life is never frozen. In this way, the photographs of Reid’s show are mirrors of her collages, both acting as an extension of her creative mind—only the method differs.

Even in works where the battle between the natural and synthetic are not so obvious, a word from the artist sheds light on the truth. In the diptych piece that Reid considers the fulcrum of the show, a mostly black background defines the composition but yields to minimal swathes of swirling white color that distort an image of a fish. Reid explained that she stood for hours shooting a fluorescent light reflecting on the surface of the water until the desired composition emerged. She then used the image of the reflected light in Photoshop to replicate another piece with a similar effect. It was this piece that set in motion the series of works that comprises Hidden Places.

The subjects within the pieces are heavily indicative of Reid’s experience in Asia: ornate Japanese carvings on the dilapidating doors, architectural elements, a Butoh dancer. Hidden Places gives us a glimpse into Reid’s time spent among the cultures of Asia and raises significant questions about the artificial and natural and the delicate balance of the two in which we live.

The show runs through June 24 at the Dougherty Arts Center, located at 1110 Barton Springs Rd in Austin, TX.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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