- Versión en español
Fantasy is sanctuary. For me, the imagination
is a threshold to an inner world. I uncover the tension between
an image that conjures its mutable revelations and the idee
fixee. My work embodies the hidden poetry of the ordinary,
making visible what previously was hidden.
Secrets of the Magdalen Laundries explores the theme
of imagination in the inner life. Dreaming, reverie, and fantasy
are ways of being that make the reality of circumstances more
As a point of departure, I was drawn to the history
of the Magdalen Laundries. These convent industries in Ireland
existed from the mid 19th century until the late 20th century.
The Magdalen Laundries institutionalised women who were smeared
with the reputation of being immoral, or who were indigent,
and kept them imprisoned through the social machinations of
the Church. These misused women lived in punitive labor, lost
to both their families and themselves. Henceforth, they became
invisible, concealed beyond the margins of society.
At the boundaries of the visible exists the invisible.
In my images these women live in a private world of desire,
longing, and unreachable fulfilment, forced into a mundane ritual
of service without pleasure or amenities. Their vitality and
eros, bound by the superficial morality of the Church, reemerges
as images on the sheets that they repetitiously wash, a reminder
of their stained existence.
They dreamed until the secret images were burned
onto the sheets. Sheets facilitate dreaming. They enfold the
body, carry its warmth, desire, perfume, and wrap it in death.
I work on discarded sheets to give form to the imagination that
releases desire in spite of circumstances. The sheets move from
matter to metaphysics, reminding us of the body and its dreams.
The portraits from the Magdalen Laundries appear and disappear
as you move around them. Viewed from the oblique perspective,
the images vanish like the women lost in time. Facing them,
they assume their own dreaming existence.
Diane Fenster: The Alchemy of Vision (*)
"My work derives technically from two
different mediums, from the computer which I first learned as
a graphic design tool, and from photography which I initially
used as "found" material in the vintage or family
photographs that I used in my art. It also derives from the
practice of photography itself which I began to explore in 1992
by taking my own photographs as a source for the images, or
photomontages, that I had created with my earlier work. My experiments
with photography opened a surprising new realm of meaning for
my work, as I was able to find my own voice and create personal
landscapes from images that persistently impelled me to photograph
There are two encompassing metaphors that preoccupy
me. These are of the architecture of creative work and the archaeology
of the soul, which like building out or digging deep are mirror
images. Through these fundamental themes I grapple with internal
and personal processes of identity, desire, longing, and the
inevitable losses sealed in memory. The metaphor of architecture
suggests the processes of constructing, building, and creating
a place for the self. The idea of place implies safety and sanctuary,
intimacy and warmth, but also isolation and loneliness in the
home of one's past, as well as boundaries and limits, both protective
and fearsome. The other metaphor in my work is that of the archaeological
excavation of memory, which, while it reveals, also conceals
through illusion, transformation, and deeply embedded ideas
that may obscure the truth. And I am after the truth of myself,
the one I can define as each artist must, with the hope that
it extends into a common intimacy with the viewer."
(*) Excerpt from the homonymous chapter by Celia Rabinovitch
and Diane Fenster of the book Women and New Media, edited
by Judy Malloy and scheduled to be published this year by Massachusetts
Institute of Technology Press.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
- Versión en español
Diane Fenster: email@example.com
Michael McNabb: firstname.lastname@example.org
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