Two years ago I walked into the Irvine Contemporary gallery in Washington, D.C. to see this startling photograph by Brooklyn artist Kerry Skarbakka. I was transfixed and it stayed with me.
Recently I was reminded of Skarbakka’s work when I came across Elijah Gowin’s “Of Falling & Floating” series while researching a previous post on his recent exhibit at Richmond’s Page Bond Gallery. Both photographers explore a loss of control and those slow-motion, mid-air moments of terror or joy. Take a look…
ABOVE: Skarbakka’s “Studio,” 2002
LEFT: Gowin’s “Falling in Trees 2,” 2006
Gowin collects images from the internet and layers them together. He’s interested in questions of doubt and faith. Who are these people and what is happening to them? We know less information; their clothes are ambiguous and the locations a mystery.
LEFT: Skarbakka’s “Trestle,” 2006
Skarbakka is the person in his photos. He harnesses himself, performs the stunts then photoshops out the harness later. There was a fascinating story in the Chicago Reader about him growing up in a fundamentalist commune in Tennessee with a militant stepfather and constant anxiety.
Skarbakka said this series, called “The Struggle to Right Oneself,” was an artistic response to seeing people jumping from the Twin Towers on 9/11.
“They had released themselves completely,” he told the Reader. “They left the constructs of society, they left their family, they left their bills they had to pay. They left everything but the choice of what they were going to do in their final moments.”
Some critics called him insensitive especially when he staged a fall from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in June 2005.
I’m all for artistic expression but the office-setting falls are harder for me to look at, especially the one below. They almost feel like reenactments.
Elijah’s photos are more dreamlike. The falls suggest a peaceful, almost spiritual moment, rather than the helplessness in Skarbakka photos.
Skarbakka’s latest series of underwater photos is called “Fluid.”
Interestingly, Gowin has a series of baptism photos called “Watered.”