Darlene Yeager-Torre’s ethereal still lifes are as much performance art as they are photographs. Made by painting light on her tableaus as she moves about in front of, not behind her lens, she choreographs a ballet of luminescence onto her carefully directed scene, juxtaposing disturbing headlines—child abuse worsening, bodies stack up, millions to suffer—against the eerie beauty of flowers that are enhanced by exposures as long as ten minutes.
The result is a ghostly beauty that lures the eyes like the Sirens of Greek mythology, who with their beauty and song would entice sailors to wreck their ships onto the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets referred to their geography as a “flowery” island, a metaphor visualized in these enchanting images. If Democracy is a ship, Yeager-Torre is warning us that we are close to a rocky shoreline, don’t be distracted by the beauty. -Billy Howard
Another Moment in Time
This is 2020. Each moment is fleeting just like the hours, months, years and millennia before it. A pandemic creeps across the globe. World and national news headlines offer information about its advance and what can be, must be, done to stop it.
Disturbing news of citizens refusing to wear masks and social distance is related daily on social media, in news outlets, or directly by friends and family members. Their claim is that such precautions are an infringement of their constitutional rights. Meanwhile, U.S. president Trump encourages this reckless and aggressive behavior. It’s their right!
In June, news of the Covid-19 pandemic shifts to headlines about social upheaval. A man named George Floyd, like many other black men before him, had been murdered by Minneapolis police. Floyd was unarmed and handcuffed when it happened. Protests ensue. Riots and looting frighten citizens.
Police come under attack verbally and physically. Protesters and journalists alike are sprayed with tear gas and shot with rubber bullets. Trump posts a video clip to Twitter showing his supporters shouting “white power” with their fists raised. Then he turns his phone off and plays golf.
Our planet is dying. It’s on fire. In a small town above the Arctic Circle temperatures reach 100 degree. The U.S. pulls out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the president continues to roll back laws that help stem the exploitation of eco systems.
2020 news headlines swing back to the pandemic. Covid-19 cases surge, hospitals are at capacity again. Hard working people are furloughed and can’t pay their bills. Food banks have excessively long lines. More restaurants and shops go out of business.
Ideas stack up in my mind and articles pile up in my studio. The flowers and I can’t keep pace with the headlines.
This is 2020.
The 2020 News Headlines series was birthed in early April. Using newspaper headlines inserted into still life’s with flowers from my garden. Furloughed but hard working people couldn’t pay their rent or mortgages. People hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Lines at food banks wound on for miles. Sporting events were canceled. Schools closed for the remainder of the school year. Mixed messages came from the U.S. president and health experts.
News of the pandemic was replaced by those of protests ignited by the George Floyd murder.
Then came headlines about parts of the U.S. sweltering in record-breaking heat while towns above the Arctic Circle reached 100 degrees. At the other end of the globe an estimated three billion animals succumbed to Australian wildfires and in Africa over 300 elephants mysteriously died. Meanwhile Trump signed legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to domestic energy production.
The approach of the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19thamendment, which ensured voting equality for women but not blacks, grabs some headlines. With our planet melting, the voices and rights of black and Latinos suppressed, and a pandemic raging, voting has never been more important.
While articles pile up in my studio, ideas stack up in my mind. The flowers and I can’t keep pace with the historic headlines of 2020.
One Hundred Degrees in the Arctic Circle ©Darlene Yeager Torre
These photographs were created using a technique known as “painting with light”. Light is the essence of all photography my work differs in four significant ways:
- I work in front of the camera instead of behind it,
- The exposure times are extremely long (30 seconds to 10 minutes),
- The images are created in nearly total darkness.
- I have experimented and created new methods of “painting with light”.
For some work, real objects are lit with small handheld flashlights, the typical technique of painting with light. Others have added colors, shapes, shades, and lines created with colored gels and assorted colors of LED light sticks that I modified with black tape, black aluminum wrap, or black construction paper and use like paint brushes. Various motions, gestures, and manipulations of the lights create the look of glazed layers of colors, virtual shapes or calligraphic lines where nothing but darkness exists.
Painting with light adds dimension and depth to my work. It is technically complex yet the results are as sensuous as traditional painting and drawing. Like the historic 2020 news headlines, painting with light techniques wait to be invented through creativity and experimentation and become part of the history of photography.