Deana Lawson, Afriye, 2023 / Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery
Deana Lawson: Mind’s Eye
Sep 9 – Oct 21, 2023
David Kordansky Gallery
Los Angeles, USA

David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to present Mind’s Eye, an exhibition of new works by Deana Lawson on view in Los Angeles from September 9 through October 21, 2023. [ . . . ] The genesis of these twelve pictures could be marked by Cardeidra (2023), an image of a woman who straddles the couch with her friend in the living room, while giving me the finger at the same time. The impulse to direct the finger given by Cardeidra was partially inspired by a group portrait of several of my female cousins at a club in front of a graffiti backdrop, in which my cousin Summer – in front – flips the bird while mischievously smiling. As many photo-practitioners know, one is never fully aware of the results of a photo shoot until you receive your negatives back and are able to get to a light table. When I stopped on this picture, I noticed something I hadn’t planned for: a significant flare in the adjacent mirror. Initially, I was annoyed at this accident, but it worked on me, allowing deeper reflection of self and other, and the knowledge produced between intention and accident. What to make of this spectral white light (stained cyan), abruptly cut off by the border of the mirror? And then I realized this light connected to a dream I had a year earlier: I was in a small two-seater aircraft, the pilot was in front, and I was directly behind him. We took off and flew to the outer edges of somewhere breathtakingly beautiful… and then. Everything flared into an ominous white Light. I woke up disturbed.

The following autumn, I arranged a private flight on a Cessna Skyhawk to photograph Ivanpah, a solar farm in the Mojave Desert consisting of 173,500 mirrors [heliostats]. My fascination with mirrors heightened when I first learned that many of the earliest mirrors were black. Polished obsidian, used for divination in Mesoamerican antiquity. And further back during the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, mirrors were among the objects most frequently placed in tombs, and they were considered magical tools of the dead. Mirrors represented the sun and the divine solar power of light. When I first glimpsed the triple solar towers of Ivanpah on a standard Delta flight to NYC in 2021, I knew I had to approach it with my camera. And yet I almost canceled the anticipated chartered flight when I learned my older sister Sherry had died suddenly in Rochester, New York. The pilot, Adam, lifted the Skyhawk gently and we traversed the handsome Sierra Nevada mountains, which appeared as frozen undulating waves. After photographing Ivanpah, on our return flight to Van Nuys, the aircraft’s alarm began sounding and red flashing warning lights appeared… “What’s happening?” I asked, worried. Adam didn’t respond, rather, he turned knobs, and hit switches, and took out his manual. I removed my headset; the alarm was overbearing. Oh God this can’t be happening. Was this the dream of the white light? The battery overheated, and there was no way to fix the problem mid-air, so we made an emergency landing at Victorville airport.

The photographs taken of Ivanpah and Cardeidra are conduits into understanding wider interests and themes of geo-mythology and memory, ancestral presence, the physicality of photography and its aberrations, self-possession, and the body that doesn’t seek authorization from westernized materialism.

[ . . . ]

Each of these works is born of an anticipation or meditation on some riddle that lies between this world and some other place. I will leave open to the viewer an interpretation of the rest.

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