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In her large-scaled digital prints made from eight by ten inch 35 mm film, Lauren Semivan achieves the timeless, slightly sinister elegance more often found in good poetry than visual art. Her emotionally driven work feels as rhythmic and painstakingly assembled as a sonnet. Her formula consists of a catalog of random objects, lamps, bones, shells, a model ship, all placed against a drywall backdrop draped in gauzy layers of transparent fabric on which she draws and paints. Occasionally a figure, the artist herself, slips surreptitiously into the frame. Her face always remains obscured in veils or veiled in her own hair, blown sideways as if in a wild wind. She wears full-skirted, ladylike clothes. The feminine touch extends to everything Lauren captures within her frame. Even the bones meticulously arranged on a small table, resemble a collection of precious jewels. These humble objects have potential for universal significance, leading one to wonder about their meaning to the artist.
Lauren’s work does not utilize digital manipulation. Blurring distinctions in the layers of space, the artist arranges all the bright, eerie atmospheric effects, the drips and slashes on the backdrop, and the floating veils. She then captures everything in real-time into one piece. Lauren refers to her photographs, indirectly, as “events,” and they carry a strong sense of narrative as well as movement. At first glance, the graphic marks and flowing fabric resemble trickling water or mildew stains, an intentional mock-up of decay and neglect that casts the bits of furniture and snippets of photographs within the frame in an older, more melancholy light, accentuated by the rich black and white palette. Yet this degeneration has a lively dynamism to it. Everything in Lauren’s compositions appears to flow in tandem toward one edge of the frame, diagonally, horizontally. Indeed, an event captured the moment before all is swept away in sublime finality.
If Emily Dickinson had made dioramas, they would look something like Lauren Semivan’s work. My first impression walking through her show called to mind one of Dickinson’s poems, from which I borrowed the title of this article:
There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself-
Lauren Semivan’s work at the David Klein Gallery continues through April 27, 2013.
The David Klein Gallery
163 Townsend Street
Birmingham, MI 48009
Clara DeGalan is an artist and writer working on an MFA at Wayne State University in Detroit. View more articles by Clara DeGalan.