Sunday, January 7, 2018

Cornelia Hediger, Brittany Markert and Lauren Simonutti at the Grand Maltese Gallery

They sound a lot alike yet seem very different. Psychology and photography both came of age in 19th century Europe, where photography evolved from a realistic recording medium to an art in which the real and the fantastical share the stage, even as psychology similarly came to deal in both statistical analyses and human problems and potentialities. This surreal Catharsis expo, curated by Brittany Markert, may be small in scale but conveys uncanny psychic depth in the work of three female photographers whose imagery is especially  appropriate at the start of carnival -- a tradition we thought was a local quirk, but which really functions as a vast civic reenactment of Carl Jung's notions of the collective unconscious, or Jacob Moreno's psychodrama theories of role playing as a way of working through fears while unlocking the creative potential of our dreams and aspirations.
Fears can be crippling, as illustrated by the late Lauren Simonutti, top left, who transformed the isolation of mental illness into unsettling images that suggest what Franz Kafka might have done had he been a female hipster who heard voices, saw visions and crafted them into eerily beautiful photographs. Cornelia Hediger is a photo-collage artist whose images look so convincing that you have to look twice to see that the two ladies having a smoke and a cup of tea at a table beneath a baroque crucifixion painting are really the same person. Here, ornate plates with severed pig limbs insinuate the incipient savagery that lies just below the veneer of civilization. Brittany Markert's fantastical dream scenes are pure psychodrama in the surreal tradition of Man Ray, Hans Bellmer, Clarence Laughlin, Duane Michals and others who used photography as a portal to the psyche and brought back images of what they found there. Markert's untitled photograph of a man reading a bedtime story to a baby doll cradled by the nude “babe” on his lap, top, is a visual Zen puzzle that scrambles our usual preconceptions so what we see, and how we see it, becomes a mirror for our own processes of perception. ~Bookhardt /  Catharsis: Photographs by Lauren Simonutti, Cornelia Hediger and Brittany Markert Through Jan. 13, Grand Maltese Gallery, 3040 St. Claude Avenue, 330-1051.