A few of Irene Haupt's photographs at the Kenan Center Gallery confirm the traditional expectation that photography presents an accurate record of reality. But in most of them she explores different ways to confound this expectation. In doing so, she also expresses feelings about love, nature and dreams.
Among the distinct bodies of work in the exhibit are expressive portraiture in black-and-white, prints of trees involving repetition and color shifts, black-and-white prints sheathed in torn lead, dark soft-focus pictures evoking dream states, color prints of a blond woman holding a heart, small repeated color prints with symbols and doodles on the glass, and works that look like female figures but are actually still-lifes of fruit and fabric.
Showcased in the Kenan Center Gallery's main room are four black-and-white prints covered by sheets of lead that are ripped open to reveal the images. "Angel of Desire" shows an image of a backlighted seated female figure double-exposed with diaphanous veils that could be a close-up of flower petals and, given the title, suggest wings. The thin lead sheet initially looks like heavy dark-gray paper, and it's surprising when you realize its true nature. The feeling that you can't exactly determine the subject is enhanced because you can't see the whole print, due to the lead sheets.
Because they are blurry, depict only a few forms and fade to black at the edges, works in the series titled "Dream" are reminiscent of early photographs. We see what looks like an old trawler on a lake, but it could also be an old shack and a telephone pole in a desert.
"Dream III" is a laser photo that shows light reflecting off water. The ripples are clear in the foreground and fuzzy in the background. This large, dark image attracts partly because it is mounted on a board with clips so there is no intervening glass. The other laser photo in the show, "Road to Fuji," is more compelling because of its unorthodox use of color. It shows a close-up view of some woods. A centrally placed tree trunk and roots in the foreground are yellow, and the evergreen branches on either side of the trunk are deep red. This print exudes a mysterious aura that doesn't seem to be the result of the color alone.
This image relates to several more traditional prints in which the same negative is printed in multiples in different colors. "Trees (Two)" has two sets of three repetitions of a bare tree, one in pale blue-gray and one in pale ochre.
A series on love shows an attractive blond woman with red lips wearing a sheer dress and a serious expression holding a red heart. The series ends with the heart being doused with what looks like ketchup. The heavy-handed symbolism might be interpreted as humorous, but Haupt places a W.B. Yeats poem, "The Sorrow of Love," on the wall next to the label, suggesting that she intends for a serious interpretation.
The more traditional black-and-white portraits are technically excellent, but because the subjects are carefully posed, lighted and accompanied by props, they have an artificial, cliched feeling.
In another series, Haupt applies colored lines such as a musical staff or simply wavy lines to the glass that covers the photographs. In several instances the images are small repeated palm trees, and the added lines are frivolous, unrelated or unnecessary.
Though it is easy to see the thematic relationships among the various groups of photographs, if the Kenan Center Gallery had included dates on the labels, the viewer could come away with a more meaningful understanding of the artist's development. Nevertheless, the exhibition's varied types of photography provide a lot to contemplate.
Irene Haupt: Photography
Several types of photography by a well-known Buffalo photographer.
Through Oct. 5 in the Kenan Center, 433 Locust St., Lockport (433-2617).