You know that moment when you wake up, and for a second you can remember your dream? It still kind of makes sense, but the details are slipping from you fast. Within a couple seconds, all you have left is some blurred images, maybe some colors, and a general mood. Sometimes, dreams leave you feeling uneasy. Other times, euphoric.
It’s a strange sensation, and one of the unique experiences that many artists still can’t put their finger on. But Lorna Simpson, photographer and artist, captured that strange, etherial feeling in her latest series, “Unanswerable”.
“Unanswerable” is meant to provoke the viewer into asking questions about what the images are, what they are meant to mean, and how they came to represent what they do. They push all of these questions, yet never reveal the answer; it’s frustrating but fascinating. Simpson’s ability to provoke the mind is what has gained her artwork attention since the 1980s.
Lorna’s stylistic signature has been cultivated over the years through experimentation of different techniques. She has has done everything from two-dimensional photographs to screening her photographs on large slabs of felt.
In “Unanswerable”, Lorna uses photography, screen print, and paint to create her featured image, “Montage”.
The effect of this work is that it leaves the viewer in a state of fear, confusion, and wonder- much like how one feels after a particularly intense dream. The image features a sleeping woman, which only heightens the viewers’ emotions as they watch her move in and out of her own dream world. In fragmented images, the woman shifts from the bed to her window ledge, where she stands. Then, in an instant, as our eyes travel across the work, the woman moves back to her bed, where once again she sleeps peacefully.
Lorna’s photograph plays with our understanding of consciousness. She forces us to think about the moments that happen to us at night, the ones that we are quick to forget about in the morning. It’s eerie, but intrinsically fascinating. It forces us to ask why our minds work the way that they do.
I think that Lorna’s answer, as implied by the title of her series, is that some things are just simply unanswerable. We can ponder as much as we like about our dreams, but we will never know exactly why we dream or what they mean.
Lorna’s photography is typically rendered to focus on a social issue, to ask the viewer to look critically at the way society is constructed. Her series, “9 Props”, for example, took photographs of props like vases and glasses, and turned them into lithographs. She captioned these props with descriptions of where they came from. The martini glass in the middle, for example, was supposed to have come out of an esteemed dinner party.
By separating the object from its context, and further separating it by printing it through a lithograph, Lorna enabled the reader to look at their expectations of society and class objectively.
Lorna aims to do this with all of her work, whether it’s in regard to social concepts of sex, race, class, or dreams.
All of her installments use peculiar combinations of textures and mediums to pull the viewer out of their comfortable state of mind.
“Unanswerable” is currently being exhibited at an art gallery in London, “Hauser & Wirth”.
Feature Photo by Lorna Simpson, “Unanswerable”