Two solo exhibitions of thoughtful, complex images at Silver Eye | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Two solo exhibitions of thoughtful, complex images at Silver Eye

Diane Meyers blends photography and cross-stitching; Ross Mantle explores tentative, indeterminate landscapes.

Ross Mantle's "Untitled."
Ross Mantle's "Untitled."

Diane Meyer and Ross Mantle, winners of the Fellowship 13 International Photography Competition, present two solo exhibitions of thoughtful, complex images at Silver Eye Center for Photography.  

In Time Spent That Might Otherwise Be Forgotten, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Meyer photographed places that carry the weight of memory, then embroidered over sections of each of the 21 images, matching the color to the section of the photograph underneath. From a distance, the cross-stitched squares resemble digital, as opposed to manual interventions, and pull the image into an ambiguous space between blurriness and clarity, personal memory and crisp technology. The cross-stitching intervenes where the Berlin Wall used to be; embroidered squares hop across an image from the artist's childhood.

Through the contrast of textures, we are held between the space in the photograph and the materiality of its surface. The abstraction of the embroidered sections works alongside distorted reflections in water, for example, or things outside the depth of field. The small objects, intricately embroidered, feel extraordinarily intimate. Subtle changes in color and careful placement of the sewn portions make the images intensely tangible. Yet there is a sense of distance: People rarely appear, and when they do, their faces are obscured by embroidered pixilation, the details of their bodies reduced to squares of color. 

Mantle's California, Pennsylvania is comprised of photographs taken either in California, Pa., or in the state of California. The 51 images are imbued with a profound strangeness, a sense that something world-altering has just happened, or is about to.  Pittsburgh-based Mantle uses photography to isolate aspects of the everyday and bring them forward in their incongruity: a house that presses against a huge metal column, a swing set dwarfed by a highway overpass. People appear to be waiting, inquisitive, at times disappointed but also expectant, alienated from the built environment. Light takes on an eerie, otherworldly quality. In a set of tiny, haunting images, kids play basketball while the San Francisco Fire Department tries to extinguish a burning building behind them. 

These two series — chosen by judge Sam Barzilay, of Brooklyn, N.Y.'s United Photo Industries — together feel like a complicated, powerful sort of photo album. We expect photography to help us remember, experience or resolve. But these artists give us something different: a provocative and indeterminate picture of our relation to our world.

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