Through the end of this June, there is a gem of an exhibit featured at the venerable Hoxie Gallery, on the upper floor of the Westerly Public Library. This non-profit exhibition space is host this June to a photography show that will delight and stimulate you.
“Observations, Revelations, Appreciation” is the almost-biographical title of this solo show of one of Rhode Island’s award-winning artist-photographers, Westerly’s Maria Scaglione. She presents more than 50 photographs, representing a selection of her work from the past five years.
Scaglione’s own words serve as a guide to engage with this exhibit. We are all observers, but when Scaglione clearly states that she has “been an
observer all my life” and has devoted a conscious effort to carefully observe the world around her, she sets a high bar for herself and her own expressive art. Most of us are lucky (Scaglione would say “blessed”) to have eyes to see the world. But with her eyes, she has seen, explored and created a world of her own, almost a shadowbox for our viewing pleasure. In this boxed-in world, open to our curiosity, we find ourselves visiting strange spaces and wonderful places. We want to explore, to linger, to remain. But ultimately, we have to leave, with our eyes satisfied and our imaginations stimulated. Scaglione gives us visual poetry. We are richer for it.
Many, if not most, of her images are complete in themselves. “Kittens” captures a very private moment in a woman’s boudoir; we are trespassing in this person’s space. The title is a pointer to and a reminder of hidden sexuality, further expressed with the inviting, reflected image of her bed.
“The Cart” is a fantastic image that inspires poetry. Is it about logistics? Baggage? We ask, “What happens next?” What happens after the satin sheen and the chic blue hat drop off and roll into the dust of a forgotten corner?
Hopefully, we all benefit from our own observations with our own revelations. Remind yourself that a revelation is both an idea and an act. Scaglione is willing to experience reality as it is presented to her, but she wants to “display” it as a layered entity. She explores the layers with a very patient camera lens. She finds a moment and makes it “The One.” Often it is “The One” that fascinates us, that may disturb us, and that will reward us with deeper understanding. The reveal is hers and ours.
One moment (among many) on particular display at the entrance is “The Wind.” Here is a moment of high drama. Scaglione says the white hair and the hidden face and smile show that before we can look backwards, we are blown in the wind—we get tangled up even as we try to move forward, hoping that we do not forget the past completely.
For this writer, The One Moment is embodied in Bali Shadow Puppet, where it all comes together perfectly. The shadow puppet is a map of patinated texture, the woman has a face, but no biography and is just a splash of rich color while the space of the room behind her is simply unfocused light. This is a photograph to hold. Smartly, Scaglione printed it as her announcement card.
Scaglione photographs the world with a most-respectful eye. She has made image after image that is, simply put, beautiful. These beautiful images are not just of “beautiful” people and places, their beauty comes from delightful color, a dynamic play of light and a full array of textures. You will
rarely see such a vivid magenta, here in a woman’s hair, a vibrant leaf-green that harbors a woman’s form (“Running, Arm Tree Leg”) or a found rust-red that seems deliberately painted (in the series “Sand and Gravel”).
“In the Window” echoes “Bali Shadow Puppet” in subject, but is wholly different in tone. This image celebrates light, light that pours in the window, enhaloes the figure and scatters through the hanging crystals into rainbows. This is an image that cries out to be much larger in scale than a restricting 24 by 36-inch box. Why isn’t the figure here printed life-size? This question could be asked of quite a few of Scaglione’s images.
Scaglione’s cast of characters have what she calls “difficult personalities.” We may first be repelled by them, then because of her work, we engage with them, are fascinated by them and we join them in our shared humanity. These people may populate her images, but it is Scaglione alone who builds an abode and haven for our eyes.
The Hoxie Gallery includes an intimidating, very long south wall. Scaglione has risen to its challenges with a 16-image series, “The Pink Hair.” Arranged as a filmstrip, the double tier of photographs have all the room they need to lead us in and along. People often begin thinking about Scaglione’s work as if they
were film stills. Here, she controls the sequence, takes us indoors and out, upstairs and down, inspiring
our curiosity, directing us to make our own story. This is a rather formal show of a confident artist. It will be interesting to see what she does next, both with her own studio space in downtown Westerly, her online presence and with an upcoming solo show in October at AS220 in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.
The Hoxie Gallery is located at 44 Broad St, Westerly. For more information, visit westerlylibrary.org/hoxie-gallery or call 401-596-2877.
For more about Maria Scaglione, visit http://www.mariascaglionephotography.com/ or follow her on Facebook.
Pauline Segal is a freelance writer, specializing in the visual arts, and a graphic artist. She has a B.F.A. in painting from Antioch College and a M.F.A. in painting from Bard College. She may be reached at email@example.com.