Columbus, OH

CMA presents assistant professor’s exhibition ‘Mirror Shadow Shape’

The Lantern
Gina Osterloh’s 2008 photograph “Dots front Misfire” on display in the “Mirror Shadow Shape” exhibition at CMA. Credit: Gina Osterloh, Higher Pictures Generation (New York) and Silverlens (Manila and New York)

Inspired by the seen, the unseen and how each person sees one another, artist and assistant professor in the Department of Art Gina Osterloh’s first museum exhibition “Mirror Shadow Shape,” will be hosted by the Columbus Museum of Art.

Osterloch’s collection features an assortment of printed images captured by a film camera with an additional 16-mm video created between 2005-20. Osterloh said much of her inspiration came from the inherent qualities of a photograph.

“There’s always this kind of specter of loss — that we will no longer be here or a loved one will no longer be with us — and so we want to take their photo,” Osterloh said. “I’m also really attracted to how photography collapses the 3D world, this world of physical volume, into something that is flat, and so I’m always trying to understand that space because it happens so quickly.”

Osterloh said many photographs in the exhibition are photo tableaus, staged photos in which physical spaces made out of paper or other materials are the settings for the captured images. Some of Osterloh’s earlier works incorporated props — such as fake plants or painted backgrounds — but her recent photo tableaus are made of paper or tape, her body and clothes used to experiment with the concept of shape and shadow within the photograph, Osterloh said.

“I’m creating performances in front of the camera that take a very long time, and they’re often challenging postures to hold for a duration of time,” Osterloh said.

In every printed image on display, Osterloh, the subject of most pieces, never looks directly at the camera. Osterloh said this recurring statement relates to her experiences growing up as a mixed-race Filipino-American in Ohio.

Osterloh said her artistic perspective developed as a response to the repeating question, “What are you?” and her hesitation in giving an answer. Her ethnicity never fit into a neatly checked box, Osterloh said.

“I wanted to create a blank or a pause in that whole process of someone yelling, someone asking you to narrowly define yourself,” Osterloh said.

Building on this idea, Osterloh said her work is also grounded in the concept of camouflage and mimesis — the art of repetition through the act of copying and mimicking surroundings.

“I was thinking about this strategy of camouflage and how as humans we often have to camouflage to fit in, or maybe not camouflage to not want to fit in,” Osterloh said.

Works in “Mirror Shadow Shape” consist of various saturated colors and patterns, as well as a rich tonal range with black and white photographs, Osterloh said.

The only film featured in the exhibition, “Press and Outline,” is a black-and-white film inspired by photographers’ desire to capture a silhouette, Osterloh said.

This film contrasts with many of the images on display — such as one photograph depicting a room plastered with saturated pink shapes resembling scales with Osterloh’s body emerging from the side of the space, her eyes covered with pink paper patches — Osterloh said.

“I was thinking about being seen and not seen at the same time,” Osterloh said about the photo.

Color and paper also reappear in another image of a paper mache figure decorated with colorful pastel paper, Osterloh said.

“In this photo tableau, the paper mache figure is on all fours and is covered with dots that are pink, blue, green and yellow and the room is constructed with the same colors but in paper streamers,” Osterloh said. “There’s this attempt toward camouflage or an attempt to assimilate, but it’s impossible.”

Director of Marketing and Communications at CMA Lydia Simon, said she hopes visitors of “Mirror Shadow Shape” appreciate the show for its modern artistic take.

“This is a really amazing opportunity for us because Gina is one of a few exhibitions this season that is featuring contemporary art and artists, and we invite everyone in Columbus and surrounding areas in Columbus to come,” Simon said. “It’s amazing, it’s so beautiful and powerful.”

“Mirror Shadow Shape” is one way the museum hopes to inspire courageous imagination as the exhibition’s uniqueness invites viewers to consider prominent themes and questions surrounding perception, Simon said.

“It really begs you to go to each piece and dig deeper, and they really pull you in in a very interesting way,” Simon said.

Osterloh said through “Mirror Shadow Shape,” she aspires to open the minds of viewers to the workings of perception as well as the workings of photography.

“I hope visitors can gain a new curiosity for photography, for the way we see ourselves, the way we see each other. I hope visitors to the museum can have just a moment to pause and slow down,” Osterloh said.

“Mirror Shadow Shape” will be on display at CMA, located at 480 E. Broad St., through Oct. 8. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday until 9 p.m. Ticket prices are included in general museum admission.

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