SPEAK TO ME SHADOW collaboration with Lenore Thomas
Essay by Christine Lorenz
The spaces you encounter in BUFF photos are quiet ones, and when you enter one, there are no other people around: it’s just you and the place. But that place is layered with echoes of people who have been through there before. The walls are worn, made of materials that are so familiar it’s hard to notice them. Some have that kind of siding that was meant to imitate the patterns of a stone wall, now peeling at the seams. Some have been painted by multiple different owners, and then after that, there have been graffiti buffs that layer on even more variations. The colors of the buff paint were generally intended to coordinate with their walls, but it looks like it was never worth trying too hard get an exact match. At some point, maybe years later, a wall that was worth tagging turned out to be worth coming back to, and it has to be patched again. And that is just the beginning.
In one photograph, for example, there is a wall somewhere in Buffalo where the peeling white siding has been patched with a broad, uneven shape in the color of a buff-puff straight from the drug store (the peach color, for sensitive skin). And now layered on that are two small fields of lilac, shaped with a little bit of spatter at the edges like the first burst from a spray can, but with a surface so flawless it’s slightly uncanny. It has a velvet finish, like a matte eye shadow that hasn’t been touched yet. It takes the light differently from the photographic surface beneath it, in a way you can just catch if you slow down and watch it while you walk past.
The photographic constructions reflect action upon action over time, before the moment of photographing and after. Those that are framed are without glass, so we can get very close to the surfaces, where it can take a moment to sort out how they have been layered. Rough-edged areas of paint served to cover other things we can’t see, and echoing their shapes are silkscreened spans of translucent color, or delicate papers in precise rectangles, printed with geometric patterns like faded drawer liners. In one paired piece, the photograph contains a weather-beaten rectangle that is meticulously recreated in print form, curling out from the wall of the gallery at just the same angle that the original pulled away from brick. There are compositions where a larger photograph is layered with smaller ones, and places where threads extend the lines of shadows right out into the room, where the light creates its own patterns on clean walls. One step layered on another reorients what had been there before.
The work in this space speaks of the places we find ourselves in, and the things we do to make them our own. The photographs were taken over a period of years, on walks through streets where the houses are close together. Their doors, windows, stoops and grates, signs and fences, grew this way over time, through whatever combination of necessity and neglect. The patchwork of their colors and textures has a kind of beauty that it takes a certain perspective to see. Photographing a place can be a way of making it mean what you want it to mean, and people can have good reason to be suspicious of strangers wandering around and taking pictures. It's something different when you're looking at a place that is home to you. Sometimes the homes we come from aren't all that photogenic. Sometimes just because a place is your home doesn't mean it's easy to live there. But we do what we can. In the right hands, mercury vapor orange can become a pastel tone from a Valentine’s Day palette, and the color of a broken taillight is the lip gloss you always wanted.
There is a cycling over time that has brought these spaces into the moment when we find them. Encounters add layers to the layers that had been there before. We move on, carrying forward the connections we found there. Paths that cross may cross again.
Exhibition at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA
September 8, 2022 - October 8, 2022
Speak to me shadow was BUFF's second solo exhibition.
BUFF is Ivette Spradlin and Lenore Thomas.
More BUFF work.
Hoping Tomorrow Will Already Be Different Than Today was also part of this exhibition.