review

Josephine Sacabo

Woodstock Times - June 19, 2008
by Paul Smart


Smart Art - Seeing the Unseen

There's a ripe exotic quality to all things Josephine Sacabo, the Texas border-born, New Orleans-based surrealistic photographer who is teaching a workshop and lecturing on the subject, "Images of the Psyche: Revealing The Unseen," at the Center for Photography at Woodstock this weekend, as well as being the recipient of a special artist's reception honoring her spectacularly rich new exhibition, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, June 14 at Galerie BMG, on Tannery Brook Road.

Partly it's her mix of passionate heritages and haunts, interests and impressionistic approach to a medium she entered working in the documentary style of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Sacabo likes to explore themes from intellectual beginnings through the experiential to something poetic, something otherworldly. But it's also a result of her drive to imbed the instinctual into all she does, albeit in a driven, and not any cursory fashion.

Josephine Sacabo, from all we know from and of her, is one of those artists constantly pushing herself beyond her own limits into new territories. Yet doing so in the richly fertile creative grounds of the places she's made laboratories for her pursuits, from the great European cities to the deserts of Mexico and humid back quarters of the Marigny.

And to think...she went to Bard, once upon a time. Back when the place was a hotbed for interdisciplinary study. Call it yet another breeding ground for her unique style drawing as much inspiration from Rilke, Neruda and hosts of other poets as her own dreamscapes, observations of forgotten landscapes, and thoughts about the role eroticism plays in our deepest lives.

"We dream in images. Images are at the most basic level of our true psychic reality," she has written of her methodology, what drives her. "Our dreams are the metaphorical pictures of our individual realities. Through them we can forge a deeper connection between ourselves and the world."

Sacabo has become known for her books as much as her individual black and white prints. Starting in 1991 with the Paris-published Une Femme Habitee, these have included her 2002 work illustrating the reprint of the classic Juan Rulfo Mexican novel, Pedro Paramo, in which a man searches for his ghost father's unobtainable lover; that same year's Cante Jondo, a collaboration with a poet friend; and her more recent exploration of Rainer Maria Rilke's classic Duino Elegies in a handsome handmade series of books, sold as fine art.

Yet her series of single images hold equal narrative power, as evidenced by their titles - Ophelia's Garden, Lost Paradise, Nocturnes, Susana San Juan, Viernes Santo, A Geometry of Echoes, as well as the collections they've become part of, including the Houston, New Orleans, and Boston Museums of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, George Eastman House, and countless private homes.

"I photograph things not as I 'see' them but rather as I might have 'dreamt' them," she has explained most succinctly. "By uniting dream and reality we can produce an art that will resonate and in the process learn something about ourselves. I believe in the supremacy of instinct over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths and this is what I envision as the goal of this series."

Sacabo's style of photography embodies a feminine level of empathy that runs deep into the gut. After her mother died, she went back and explored her view of the woman when she was six, but with elapsed time still visible in layers over the original images. She has explored cosmic voyages through the lens of a single woman's madness in a single, historically redolent room.

Best of all, Josephine Sacabo has stayed cognizant of every step of her process along the way and is as consummate yet passionate a perfectionist in her spoken descriptions of her works as the art itself. Which will make her lecture and slide show Friday night, June 13 so special an evening for anyone as interested in the way art gets made, and its effects on the maker, as simply looking at gorgeous pictures.

"For so long now, I have carried this ancient sadness deep down in my cells, this weight in my wings," Sacabo has quoted a favorite poet, Vincente Huidobro, who inspired one of her series. "this shapeless sorrow from before my birth that follows me like a cortege of soldiers, and will continue on and on, past the farthest limits of the universe.Or later, from Heraclitus: "Invisible connection is stronger than visible. To arrive at the basic structure of things we must go into their darkness."

Josephine Sacabo's workshop, while filled, starts with a lecture by the photographer at 8 p.m. Friday, June 13. in the CPW main gallery at 59 Tinker Street. Her exhibition is up through June 30 at the increasingly influential Galerie BMG at 12 Tannery Brook Road in Woodstock, where there will be a reception for the artist 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, June 14. ++