By Frances Hymes, OVAC Intern
A visitor is not always familiar with the museum they are touring or what work to anticipate from a newly introduced artist. The viewer must examine the work from the limited perspective of the image and title alone, without the knowledge of an artist’s intention. It’s evident touring the Oklahoma City Museum of Art that Michael Eastman’s Faded Elegance photos are better viewed in person. Their large format gives the images a grand presence and creates the illusion of being these spaces of Havana, Cuba. The two pieces, Isabella’s Two Chairs 2000 and #167, Havana share the common element of hanging clothes in their composition. There is a strong visceral effect standing in front of the decade-apart images.
Eastman’s #167, Havana photo of the exterior of a building is refreshing. The hanging linen look newly cleaned and blowing in the breeze. The composition is organic in the sunshine felt through the vibrant tone of the scene and sway of the clothes in the air. It draws the viewer into Havana as if the scene were caught in a glance during an actual stroll through Cuba. The photo is set off by the cool green contrasting with the natural light entering its outside space, not at all like the brown-beige interior of Isabella’s Two Chairs 2000.
Isabella’s is set in an open room where clothes hang symmetrically between a grand chandelier and the chairs below. The centered colored clothes are a shot of life in the aged greenish interior. Their stationary position in the room adheres with the stillness of the room. The clothesline they hang on runs out of the room leaving the viewer wanting to further explore the rooms it enters.
Eastman’s show is a step into Cuba for someone untraveled. His work takes the viewer on a personal trip to the interiors, neighborhoods and architectures of Havana. All are best appreciated in the large formats of their composition. His twenty nine pieces are at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art through December 31, 2011. Visit www.okcmoa.com for more information.