By Shelby Otto
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Rohrbach Library welcomed fine photographer Charles F. Stonewall at a reception for his exhibit “Between Silence and Light” on Oct. 10. The collection of photographs serves as portraits that demonstrate fleeting moments of human existence and interaction, which consistently escape us except when caught on camera.
In speaking with Stonewall, he highlighted some of the most dynamic elements and aesthetics within the pieces, beginning with his incorporation of fragile items such as flowers. According to the artist, framing the flower within the context of this particular collection allows him to point to the fragility of human experience and emotions.
For me, the flower also serves as an emblem of passing time. Like the life of a flower, humans experience a variety of emotional and traumatic events each day, and it seems as though, in this context, a moment comes and goes in the blink of an eye. For example, cut bouquets or the lone wildflower picked from the side of the road have very brief lifespans, thus reflecting similar ideas in Stonewall’s work.
Another interesting component within this body of work is that the artist incorporates reflective elements such as water, mirrors and windows to form a multidimensional composition that disorients the viewer in a couple of different ways. For example, one piece entitled “After Long Silence” uses a mirror, which forms a strange diagonal and disrupts the unity of the frame and composition. We see a young woman reflective in the green hue of an ambiguous room, and reflections and shadows that occupy the corners of this piece make for a haunting and tense photograph. A second variation of this same photo is found a few pieces away from where this one hangs.
Stonewall went on to explain that in each of his photographs, things at first appear normal until viewed under closer scrutinization, which further highlights some of the juxtaposing elements within the composition.
One particular example of this falls towards the end of the formulated timeline that makes up the show in the library. The photograph entitled “Silent Suffering” shows an elderly woman, who appears within what seems to be the everyday comforts of her home. We see the expected items of a home long occupied, such as photos on the wall and a plush carpet covering the floor. However, she sits fully clothed, except for her shoes, on an unforgiving chair, which conveys a kind of vulnerability that seems out of place in comparison to the formality of her pose.
Further, the orderliness superimposed on the setting makes the room or house seem unoccupied despite the realness of the woman filling the foreground. The piece overall is both romantic in composition and disorienting in its conveyance.
One final note about Stonewall and his processes is that each of the individuals within the photographs are actually actors who were given scripts obtained from help and outreach centers. They were told to translate the happenings from those instances however they felt was right. Now that the viewer is aware of this strategy, the audience becomes even more involved with the scenes in the photographs as, with that knowledge, we gain a better understanding for the social component stressed within the exhibit and how we as humans live diverse lives and survive multitudes of hardships and obstacles.
Stonewall gave a brief lecture about his work at the opening reception, and visitors were able to not only eat and drink but were also given roses to take with them in contemplation of the elements within the artist’s work. Stonewall will be opening a second show called “Portraiture and the Performing Arts” on Nov. 10 at Bethlehem Town Hall Rotunda Gallery.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment