Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tina Freeman and E2 at Octavia

Artists' studios have long inspired a certain fascination among the general population as well as other artists. Like historic house tours, they are often organized into a kind of pilgrimage, but unlike the work spaces of writers or musicians, art studios tell us much about a visual artist's creative process, and can be very personal, even psychological. Tina Freeman's photograph of George Dureau's studio, above, is both poetic and poignant. Gorgeously cluttered with symbolic, if often prosaic, objects that in his hands became magical, it no longer exists because Dureau, now 82, suffers from various maladies that confine him to a nursing facility. Ersy's studio similarly resembles a workshop where elves assemble magical dreams, while proto-postmodernist Bob Tannen's repurposed manufactured objects and natural forms take over his living and work spaces like mushrooms after a rain. Here Freeman's photographs are lovingly crafted art objects that also contribute to our collective memory as a community.

Elizabeth Kleinveld and Epaul Julien's photographic versions of paintings from art history reflect their concerns about the ethnic stereotyping seen in some news reports after Hurricane Katrina, but they lend themselves to a variety of interpretations. Here all races and orientations are reflected in remakes of European masterpieces like Manet's Picnic on the Grass, David's Death of Marat, and Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding, pictured, in images that avoid trite multicultural moralizing by being so beautifully and wittily crafted that they invite us to see the world anew, without the stereotypical expectations that attend notions of race, gender or ethnicity--concepts already put through the Creole blender that is Julien and Kleinveld's native New Orleans.

Other mind bending works in this year's PhotoNOLA expos include Wallace Merritt's meditative views of Paris made even more timeless by the absence of people or automobiles, at Cole Pratt, below, and Brooke Shaden's buoyantly otherworldly series of female figures seemingly transported into a realm of daydreams made real, left, at Soren Christensen.

Close to Home: Photographs by Tina Freeman, The Art of Empathy: Photographs by E2 (Elizabeth Kleinveld & Epaul Julien), through Dec. 28 Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249. Wallace Merritt at Cole Pratt through Dec 28; Brooke Shaden at Soren Christensen through Dec. 31.