Withering Romance

What love about Wuthering Heights is that it is essentially a beautifully romantic story about unattainable love, although some readers might remember Heathcliff more for his cruelty than his love. Nonetheless the story is about love, a wicked kind of love though not the warm and forgiving that we are used to in most novels but the intense and vengeful kind that is far more intriguing. I don't claim to be specially partial to this kind of love in real life, but I applaud Brontë for such a desperately stark depiction of unrequited love that shocked many when the book first published in 1847. Being a fan of both the novel and the works by Sam Taylor-Wood, I keenly went to The Brooklyn Museum to see this exhibition.

What I like about Sam Taylor-Wood is her conveyance of emotional isolation through some of her works. Here in this series of Ghosts photographs the human absence evoked an emotional sense of desolation.  These didn't look like images of ordinary empty landscapes but perhaps of the ruined remains of a place that was once buoyant and filled with life.  Whether this idea of desperate loss in the images was injected into me by the titles and excerpts taken from the novel (as printed wall text) displayed next to each photography or evoked through the images, that I wasn't not quite sure myself.

To put aside my favorable views of her works for a moment, I want to say that I have definitely seen Sam Taylor-Wood's work in better execution than these. When I walked closer to the photographs, they made me think of film stills rather than punctilious large-format landscape photographs as they appeared at first. Like second generation images the fine details of tree branches or pieces of yellow dirt I expected to be visible were just blurs of colors and shapes (or let's just say they looked like enlarged pixels). On one hand I thought maybe Sam had her much less-skilled assistant to make these prints, then on the other hand maybe all this unrefined detail is just part of the work so to give it this sense of mystery and the feeling that something has been lost now is in the process of decaying. Despite my love for Brooklyn and this museum, I would like to point out that the museum has not exactly done their best to exhibit these works. Not only that the works are poorly lit, but they are crammed onto this little piece of wall space directly facing a 'colorful' time-line of feminist art or what they called 'herstory' wall. The whole idea of setting apart the woman artists all by themselves and then assuming as feminist art strikes me as being a bit ironic since the whole notion was to not be excluded from 'history' altogether. Maybe you can figure this out and let me know. These works are currently up until August 14 at the Brooklyn Museum.

Here I have included one of my favorite works by Sam Taylor-Wood - Still Life, it is about 3 minutes long and shot on 35mm then transferred to DVD.


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