Lynn Silverman – Lookout at MICA reviewed by Cara Ober

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Lynn Silverman: Lookout 1999-2006
Pinkard Gallery. MICA.
1300 Mt. Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD.

‘Lookout’ displays just one of Lynn Silverman’s black and white series of photographs, in which a window, seen from the inside looking out, is the subject. Each photo is expertly exposed to create a sense of time and place, not an easy feat considering the photographer is dealing with two very different lighting ‘systems’ at the same time. In each shot, a dark interior frames a glowing exterior, which, depending on type of curtains, casts a glow on the objects in the rooms. Despite high contrasts between light and dark, the velvety black shadows and hazy highlights maintin a substantial amount of detail and texture.

Besides being technically beautiful, these photos are poetic. Far from being one-liners, each photo has something special about it. This ‘certain something’ is different in each, but is palpable. Maybe it is the specific feelings or memories the artist is saving from each place? I can almost smell the delicate scent of old plaster in one, and the scent of paint brushes in old turpentine in another. A photograph, unlike other art media, preserves a precise second in time. Each moment in Silverman’s series feels carefully measured against other moments, and then kept.

I have always admired the ‘less is more’ approach Silverman pulls off in her work, without being minimal or cold. These photos are taken from travels all around the world, but remain consistent in their content and their compositions. I am amazed that, within such narrow confines, the artist is able to find something significant and different in each one.

There are lots of photographers who use windows as symbolic objects, or to explore society’s voyeurism, and I don’t think these photos are about any of that. For me, the works are about something simple and large: the inside and the outside, and the difference between. Even a one-celled organism can understand this concept, yet this is an issue we deal with on an infinite number of levels: emotionally, physically, philisophically, socially, spiritually… In the simple contrast of inside and outside, Silverman sets up a universal question: What is mine and not mine? while, at the same time, pointing out that you can’t have one without the other.

by Cara Ober

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