Vigorous Mortis | Arts Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Vigorous Mortis 

Alison Overton's new exhibition of photographs brings to life stone cemetery statues and bas-reliefs

Cemeteries exist not only as final resting places for the departed, but as plots of land set aside for the erection of tangible reminders of their lives. Since humankind first began signifying the spot where a body lies, grave markers have been the object of fascination as they invoke, if not memory, then an imaginative wonder at the lives represented by them.

Raleigh photographer Alison Overton understands this fascination. Using a Widelux F6 swing lens camera, Overton has taken panoramic images of figurative sculptures and bas-reliefs in American and British cemeteries for her current exhibition, Spiritual, on view at the Municipal Building in Raleigh at 222 W. Hargett St. The resulting series of 20 hand-tinted gelatin silver prints are striking and unsettling as photographs of stone representations of human form, tinted to impose living qualities on non-living objects. The panoramic lens renders the static sculptures dynamic by slightly warping their dimensions. Overton's technique and the often confrontational nature of her compositions--characterized by a close-up perspective and exaggerated dimensions--not only "enhance the subjects' otherworldly qualities," as she writes in her artist statement, but serve to lend them new life.

Overton preserves the integrity of her compositions by cropping while shooting rather than while printing. This technique is important here because the unique ability of camera portraiture to reproduce a single instant that may capture the personality of a given subject is null in these images. The subjects are already frozen in time, and their postures and facial expressions have been rendered long ago by commissioned sculptors. In the photographs, the statues remain austere and beautiful, their expressions solemn and vulnerable, in pensiveness and wonder.

The particularly haunting image "Mummy and Me" features a child, eyes tinted blue and lips pink, standing naked and gazing at the viewer. The child's expression communicates perfectly the inability of children to comprehend mortality, while the child's mother fills the background, an ominous presence rather than a discernible identity, her face cropped off at the top of the frame. The mother neither looks at nor cradles her child. Over her shoulder, the silhouette of bare tree limbs lends a quality of starkness. Though they have been placed together as in life, the statues give the impression of being, in death, wholly and eternally alone.

In developing her images, Overton has left an obscure darkness within the frames of the photographs. The result is iconographic: The darkened edges contrast with the illuminated and colored images within, creating a haloed radiance and emphasizing the artist's respect for her subject matter. Overton has successfully highlighted the work of these long-forgotten sculptors, leaving their work in its element without altering the original artists' intentions. EndBlock

  • Alison Overton's photographs bring cemetery statues to life.

More by Nathan Lupo

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

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 Arts Feature



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

There is a long list of benefits that can come out of a successful viral marketing campaign for your business. …

by Ryan Silver on A tale of two memes: The Triangle backstories of a pair of recent viral video sensations (Arts Feature)

I've been waiting for over a decade to get in there without feeling like I'm wasting anyone's time. Now I …

by Liz Mckay on Durham’s Best (OK, Only) Rare Tuba Museum Opens to the Public (Arts Feature)

Wow, thank you for the wonderful editorial and amazing pictures. All the best to you two! - Aiyana

by SimonettiTubaCollection on Durham’s Best (OK, Only) Rare Tuba Museum Opens to the Public (Arts Feature)

WOW, good information.

by Diana Haywood on Discover Oberlin Cemetery, a Buried History of Black Prosperity Hidden in Cameron Village (Arts Feature)

Absolutely a great performance! A much needed and timely message that was executed by an extremely talented group. Loved it

by Biggoppa on Five things that mattered this year in the performing arts (Arts Feature)

Comments

There is a long list of benefits that can come out of a successful viral marketing campaign for your business. …

by Ryan Silver on A tale of two memes: The Triangle backstories of a pair of recent viral video sensations (Arts Feature)

I've been waiting for over a decade to get in there without feeling like I'm wasting anyone's time. Now I …

by Liz Mckay on Durham’s Best (OK, Only) Rare Tuba Museum Opens to the Public (Arts Feature)

© 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