A few years ago, walking down Abercorn Street, I was absolutely mesmerized by a photograph visible through the window at Jack Leigh Gallery.
The background was almost white, a pale gray, with a sprinkling of small brightly colored rectangles arranged with an artful randomness. It took a few seconds — maybe even longer — to identify the ice fishing cabins on a frozen lake as seen from far away through the snow.
That image was “Invisible City”, part of the Lisa M. Robinson’s stunning collection Snowbound. Given the scene — the obvious immersion in the cold that such a spare, considered photo would require — I was shocked to find that Robinson had Savannah roots and that she had worked for a time with Leigh, whose lush but sometimes lonely Lowcountry images have been Savannah icons for decades. At first, the connections made no sense — and then they made infinite sense.
I eventually bought one of the prints of “Invisible City”; it hangs in my kitchen. I can’t even begin to say how much the piece has enriched my random wanders through the house. What more can one expect from art? I was pleased later to find out that the local Telfair Museums bought a print of that same image before the edition sold out. I eventually wrote a column about Robinson and the incredible reception that Snowbound received.
When I heard that Robinson was spending a lot of time in the Southwest, I assumed that she had turned her sharp, patient eyes to the desert — or maybe to the dry mountains.
But with the opening of Oceana this week at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, Robinson reveals what she has been up to these last few years. Here’s how she describes the intense focus on the sea:
Water and the atmosphere are forever shifting, changing in both subtle and dramatic ways. My challenge with Oceana has been to invoke these concepts of shifting time and space while evoking a more intuitive response to the sea. I am viewing the physical world itself with an understanding of its internal transformations and visible signs of upheaval. The images from Oceana are, at times, tumultuous, even stormy. They become painterly in an emotionally charged way—not formally, but like the strokes of a brush. By recalling painterly vistas and historical canvases, these photographs get lost in time themselves.
I can’t wait to see some of the images in person, but for now I’ll have to settle for the 13 high-quality ones here on the Klompching site.
Oceana is obviously quite different than Snowbound, no matter how forbidding the two landscapes may be. Robinson’s work in the snow frequently has traces of human habitation — those ice fishing cabins, a lonely bench, an unused basketball goal waiting for the thaw — while these images in Oceana are much more fundamental. If we’d had a photographer shooting the third day of Creation, maybe she would have come up with images like these. The people-less melding of the forces of earth and sky and sea reminded me at once of an image of the third day of Creation painted by Hieronymous Bosch on the closed panels of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.