“Julie Blackmon: Domestic Vacations”

Pub date April 14, 2009
WriterAri Messer
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW One of my most uninteresting college professors used to insist that negatives only exist in language, but couldn’t explain what this meant. That’s funny, I thought, because I can physically feel a complete lack of interest in your class. In fact, I think you can feel it too; it’s contagious. Nonetheless, I was never bored as a child, and I’m still never bored. The boring and the uninteresting are different concepts. Julie Blackmon’s lucid, staged photographs of childhood fantasy worlds in the twilight of America are stunning for a ton of reasons, but first and foremost they get their signature bite and sting by recognizing that everyone in each scene is interested in different things. There is no sincere panorama. From the modern intrusions into Blackmon’s protoclassical, Dutch-inspired scenes — a miniature FedEx truck, Netflix mail — to trippy little things such as the almost lurid dog eyes and discarded gloves in Snow Day (2008), every person, place, and thing appears distracted by an otherworldly mission.

Adding to this sense of confused biography, Blackmon, the oldest of nine kids and now a mother of three, uses people and things from her life in her work like a novelist trussing out character relations pictorially. She reminds me of some essays by Orhan Pamuk about his daughter, Rüya. It’s not the stories themselves that are so thrilling, but the palpable feeling of love in their narrative arcs, plus the vectors they send out into Pamuk’s novels, where characters seem to have little aspects or shimmers of Rüya (even if she wasn’t born when the story was written): her young mind, her toys and delusions, the way she gazes out the window and finds it startlingly new every day.

JULIE BLACKMON: DOMESTIC VACATIONS Through May 23. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. SF Camerawork, 657 Mission, second floor, SF. (415) 512-2020. www.sfcamerawork.org