I began as a portrait photographer and feel that I am still making portraits. Inhabited spaces tell you a lot about the people who live and work in them and are more revealing in some ways than anything a person might say to describe themselves. I certainly feel that this is true with photographic portraiture, which is frequently more about the photographer than it is about the sitter. A portrait of somebody’s home gets at who they are indirectly but often more accurately. (Shellburne Thurber)
Krakow Witkin Gallery proudly announces “Phantom Limb”, Shellburne Thurber’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Renowned for her long-term photo-based projects including, “Home” exhibited at the ICA, Boston in 1999, “Renovation” at the Boston Athenaeum in 2002, “9 Wellington” at Barbara Krakow Gallery in 2011 and “Looking for Saint-Gaudens” at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in 2015, Thurber has used the medium of photography to explore the relationship between constructed space and human presence. Thurber’s newest project uses the site of her family’s New Hampshire home to expand on this exploration to include the concept of constructed space as a metaphor for the body – specifically the house as a stand-in for the mother, a structure that witnesses, nurtures, contains and protects those who reside within its walls. For this show, “Phantom Limb” goes beyond the traditional presentation of photographs to create an environment that reflects the artist’s interest in the landscape as both an extension of the home and as another kind of interior-inside and out being symbiotically connected. With this body of work, Thurber also comes full circle to her early black and white interiors, which began her lifelong interest in the energetic quality of lived space.
To be surrounded by a person’s possessions and immersed in the texture of the landscape and the buildings in which they lived, to see the light and the weather they saw from the places they inhabited, is to know that person in a particularly powerful way. Emerging from this intimate connection has been my continuing interest in the interactions of human presence, landscape and architecture. (Thurber)
The images from “Phantom Limb” come from years of observing the way that the changing seasons and the attendant shifts in light alter these long familiar spaces in minute yet powerful ways. The act of photographing becomes a way of experiencing something, known over a long period of time, in a new and transformative way. It is also a process that involves being still and allowing the pictures to make themselves known. This patience comes across in the imagery as a palpable intimacy. The momentary-ness of the light, balanced with the seeming stillness of the scenario, creates images that encompass the complex and uncomfortable question of change, stasis, and the inevitability of loss. In addition, the arrangements, whose reasoning of placement is known only to the family, enable one to feel the presence of the occupants both present and past. Impressively, Thurber creates photographs where this intimacy is balanced with an emotional space that allows viewers to use her imagery as a template on which to project their own past experiences.
We walk through life constantly experiencing the world through a lens that has been shaped and continues to change based on what we’ve experienced in the past. No one comes at the same thing from the same place, making any one experience of any given person, place or thing entirely subjective and unique. Whenever I work, I am bringing all of my memory with me, much of it forgotten but often recognized and rediscovered in the subject matter in front of my camera. I also suspect that I seek out subjects that give me an opportunity to talk about and have a conversation with that part of my life memory that is no longer accessible to me. (Thurber)
Shellburne Thurber graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University. Her work has been in numerous group and one person shows both in the USA and abroad. Her work is in several collections including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Worcester Art Museum, the ICA Boston and the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, to name a few. She has taught extensively throughout New England, most recently as visiting professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She has been the recipient of several awards including a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and an Anonymous Was a Woman grant.