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Susan kae Grant
Verve Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Recommendation by Iris McLister

Susan kae Grant, "Encrypted Lessons," 2013, black and white photography, 11 x 15".

Continuing through January 11, 2014

Science and art make happy bedfellows in "Night Journeys," an ambitious project from photographer Susan kae Grant. Alongside sleep experts, Grant spent seven years studying dreams, focusing specifically on the possibility of accessing subconscious thoughts by interrupting REM sleep states. Grant recorded the whispers and fuzzy thinking of her own scientifically monitored awakenings, and these informed the subject matter of these elaborately staged black and white photographs. With the help of dramatic lighting and thoughtful props, Grant’s models — often dressed in Victorian-era clothing — appear as elongated, warped forms that seem plucked from not-quite-lucid dreams.

Elegant and stark, the works take on an ethereal, ghost-like quality. In "The Bird Collector," the figure of a little girl moves between thin bundles of upright sticks. Chin cocked upwards, she eyes a cluster of birds among the branches. "Disrupted Equilibrium" is more unsettling: hula hoops, chairs, and a dog seem to fall from the sky, and the entire composition is cloaked in a wispy, smoke-like veil. In the lower right corner, the up-canted legs and feet of a child are visible. Like a nightmare, it has unnerving elements of extreme confusion and tension. We may never fully grasp the function of dreams, but to experience Grant’s artistic exploration of them is a science unto itself: a visually fascinating, intellectually engaging endeavor.

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