Family photos inspired by Lewis Carroll's work | Visual Art | Indy Week
Pin It

Family photos inspired by Lewis Carroll's work 

Underground art

Nowadays, really seeing images is nearly as difficult as making original ones.

Habituated to computer-generated imagery and video game narratives integrated into HD screens hung in most public places, one must push myriad frames of reference and significance out of the way just to lay eyes and mind on an image as such. If you make this effort of seeing, you'll be rewarded at Tama Hochbaum's Down the Rabbit Hole, a show of composite photographs based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland story, at Durham's Golden Belt.

Begun for a themed group show at UNC-Chapel Hill's Ackland Museum, Hochbaum's series is now fully realized in about 30 witty and whimsical color prints featuring family members and friends as the characters we've all come to love over the years in the many retellings of Alice's adventures. Her show provides a terrific contrast to the seamless and somewhat sanitized CGI treatment by Tim Burton currently in movie theaters—Hochbaum's Alice lives among us and delivers more of the mystery of general experience than Burton's delightfully creepy thrill ride. Hochbaum combines anywhere from 10 to 35 different pictures into her final images, retaining many of the original shots' linear edges to give a look that lends a Futurist appearance to her backgrounds and endows the characters with the kinetic anxiety that has made their story so memorable.

Hochbaum's relationship with Lewis Carroll's original photographs of Alice Liddell dates back to her earlier career as a painter and to her studies with Robert Pincus-Witten at Queens College. By referencing Carroll's images, Hochbaum reminds us that he was one of the late-19th century's great polymaths. An accomplished photographer of acquaintances and landscapes in the early days of the medium, Carroll also wrote notably on mathematics and logic, created popular word games, including a precursor of Scrabble, and invented oddities such as a tablet on which to record one's dreams in symbols without turning on the light to write.

This loosening of logic in order to gain a wider point of view holds Carroll's writing, creations and exploits together. Hochbaum channels his madcap mind in images like the one that lends the show its title. Objects fly around an endless bookcase that offers glimpses of Auster and Borges books as Alice—played by Hochbaum's daughter Claire—plummets toward Wonderland. At the bottom of the rabbit hole, Alice shrinks and then grows into a giant in front of a receding archway that brings Russian matrushka dolls to mind, intertwining the frantic and fascinating.

Hochbaum's best works use image seams and Photoshop pixilations either to singularize an image with narrative focus or to feature bright, flat figures against tense, congested backgrounds. In "Swimming in Tears," Alice is shown in a dead-man's float in a silvery layer that could be clouds, smoke, water or bedclothes. Her abandonment to the nonsensical underground comes across as both threatening and exciting, as Hochbaum somehow nestles her subject into a turbulent yet even mass of soft tessellations.

It's always interesting to see an artist's interpretation of familiar stories, and this show delivers the same lightness and darkness that keeps us reading Carroll's work well into adulthood. At her best, Hochbaum endows the dramatic moments of the Alice narrative with its often-contradictory emotional tones through compositional techniques that are both kinetic and unifying. It's a difficult task for the artist but not difficult for viewers of all ages to enjoy. My 3-year-old daughter explained why "Caucus Race," in which Alice watches a dodo and several stuffed birds dance in a ring, was her favorite: "It looks like they're having fun."

Related Locations


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Visual Art

Twitter Activity


Great article! Good luck DAM!

by J.P. McPickleshitter on In The Carrack’s Former Digs, Durham Artists Movement Creates a Safe Space for Diverse Voices (Visual Art)

We have a well-equipped infrastructure which is supported by technologically advanced machines and tools that allow us to offer latest …

by Sumit Chaudhary on Chris Bradley finds creative opportunities in the simplest of objects in Close One at CAM Raleigh (Visual Art)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation