Published by Safe-T-Gallery Inc.
Don Burmeister: Owner/Editor
Barbara Confino: Associate Editor
The work on display in Last Seduction at the Hendershot Gallery exhibits a certain fascination with imagery of the past. The photographs of Marianna Rothen evoke seductive art house film sirens of the 1960s and 1970s, while the Shannon Plumb’s videos play with more comedic conventions of the silent film era.
The subjects in the photographs are all young women of the body type popular in European art house films. Clothed and unclothed, singly or in pairs, they wander around a rural landscape or within an old building. The women in these prints are mainly observed rather than directly engaged visually, putting the viewer mostly in the role of voyeur in this female-only environment.
Some of the images have titles while others are just identified as “Untitled”. Stories are hinted at. Light and dreamy on the surface, they have a hint of darkness via the guns and whips in a number of them. Some stories come across in the single image ( from the “Domesticated Woman” series, “In Despair” shows a woman, head in hand, holding a handgun in a field.) Other stories are more evident when viewing the series in sequence at Rothen’s website.
Several of these images reminded me of the 1960s work of Sam Haskins (Cowboy Kate) or of David Hamilton’s nubile nudes. Others were more moody and appeared to reference French or Scandinavian films of the period. Opposed to the sharp glossy prints of classic movie stills., these photographs are soft, pigment prints on fine art paper. Images shot in color are so washed out that they take on the look of stills printed from faded color movie stock or photos left in a drawer for decades. Printed in sizes from 12x12 to 40x40, they have a pervasive sense of a time past.
The video work by Shannon Plumb is of a much lighter vein even though the visitor must descend into the darkened basement space to see her three videos. Working with a stationary camera, Plumb is the sole character in her films. “Matinee” offers a catalog of silent comedy shtick. Dressed in a slip in “Rattles and Cherries,”Plumb toys with various pieces of fruit on a chaise lounge, playing with the viewer’s expectation of a seduction until the final unexpected twist. Both films were shot on Super 8 and transferred to video, a low-tech DIY approach echoing the technical limitations of silent films. For the last piece on view here, “Saying Goodbye” from the Window Series, Plumb shifted to HD Video but retained the static camera. Looking across to a window showing a curved staircase railing, Plumb enacts an amorous farewell through careful use of the window frame and a bit of vaudeville’s half and half act.
The press release noted that the title of the exhibit was borrowed from the 1994 HBO film The Last Seduction. While there is a hint of intrigue and a subtext of danger in Rothen’s work, I’m not sure how well that film’s neo-noir plot fits in with Plumb’s video work.