Looking Toward The Light
Bergamot Station’s Rose Gallery presents the photography of Mariana Cook
“My mother always appreciated light. She often pointed it out to me, passing under trees in the country, where the branches arched over the roadway and the light dappled through it. She always said of the same street, every time we went through there, ‘oh, isn’t the light beautiful!’” -Mariana Cook
Throughout her life, Mariana Cook reflected on these memories and translated her experience with light into a rich and deeply insightful compilation of photography of everyday objects and reflections of her environment.
Known for her acclaimed four-book Relationship series in which she focused on intimate and contemplative family portraits, Cook took a departure from portrait work to explore light in relation to objects in her own personal surroundings. Streaming through a cherry tree or peeking out under the hem of a curtain, light became the focal point of the artist’s work over a three-and-a-half year period. It was also during this period that Cook’s mother became ill and died, as she recalls “a time of destruction.”
“I was unconsciously being ripped from the life my mother brought me into. Photography was my expression in dealing with the situation at the time,“ says Cook of her foray. “I didn’t look for an object to photograph, it’s the objects that created the response.” While the rest of us tend to take these everyday objects for granted, this artist reacts to the beauty they suggest. While we may have look at a tree outside our window as merely a means of shade, or a curtain or doorknob as a functional item, Cook envisions them as fascinating art forms.
Her thought-provoking, large-scale black and white photographs take you out- side of your own experience of light. In an exceptionally impressive piece titled Drapery Hem Line, Cook observed light as it transforms the edge of a drape into a dramatic and rhythmic abstract design element. In contrast, another work, Holding Hands (Mom and I), uses the subdued effects of light to create an introspective, almost ethereal response to an intimate moment with her mother. This art can inspire you not just to look at, but really become aware of your surroundings…perhaps even view them, should I say, in a different “light.”
“Photography is my lifeline,” says Cook. No words, however, can equal the power of expression this artist finds in the
lens of her camera. Though she has moved on to other subjects and has released the book Faces of Science in September 2005, (W.W. Norton & Company), a portrait study of the greatest men and women of the scientific community, light has remained an integral part of her art. Whether it is provoking an emotional response or stimulating intellectual curiosity, Mariana Cook captures that one moment in time that reveals the essence of life.
Image: M.H.C. First Shoes, Mariana Cook. 2004. Image courtesy Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.