Among the myriad of associations elicited by Ingrid Mida's series All is Vanity was Joan Didion's book 'The Year of Magical Thinking' (written by Didion following the death of her husband and daughter). Ingrid's images are a true interpretation of the magical thinking we all experience following the loss of someone dear to us. The images resonate and to me, are universal. And for this reason, Ingrid's exhibition stayed with me long after I left the gallery. While aesthetically beautiful, this work demands, deserves and rewards a careful observation.
All is Vanity is comprised of a series of black and white photo-compositions that depict a narrative about how one experiences and endures grief and then must find a way to rebuild one's life after tragic loss. The images are powerful, using motion as well as black and white contrast as a metaphor for overwhelming emotion. Initially, there is no joy but the series cycles through grief to find peace and acceptance.
The artist has used period costumes from the opera and the setting of Versailles to allude to the measure of tragedy. All appears solid, luxuriant and everlasting on the surface, but the surface we see is deceptive. The figure of a woman thrashes through the woods, resting against trees for support, swirling in anguish, sometimes with the head cropped at the neck, all the while dressed in an exquisite gown. The suffering, misery and distress are evident in every image despite the beauty of the gown, the place or the woman.
It is important to note that the artist is the model, the woman in the photo. How does the woman/artist conquer her suffering? The inference is that she has done so, with inner strength, through her art.
The content of the images is powerful and all raw emotion. Yet the composition and production values of the images are all about control and the deliberate choices of an artist in command of her concept and her technique.
I have watched, with interest, the development, content and execution of Ms. Mida's work. This is an honest break from her earlier oeuvre. Yet she has employed her previous interests, ideas and motifs in an entirely new and very compelling format.
With this series, Ms. Mida demonstrates that she is in command of her subject and medium. Her photography speaks to time and the question of what is real, what is illusion and what is lost.
By DF Krouskie
All is Vanity by Ingrid Mida
Now showing at loop Gallery
1273 Dundas Street West, Toronto
until February 13, 2011