breaking news

Deadly crash shuts down I-20 East before Downtown Connector

For Sandra-Lee Phipps, a haunting first solo exhibit in Atlanta


A woman wanders through the forest alone, dressed in a poncho the same obscenely bright shade of orange as traffic cones and highway warning signs. The color and her solitude make her a beacon, a human exclamation point in the muted natural browns and greens of the wilderness surrounding her. The woman’s face is never seen; she is more an idea of “lost” than an identifiable presence.

Photographer Sandra-Lee Phipps conjures up an array of associations in her solo exhibition at Inman Park’s Whitespace Gallery — to Little Red Riding Hood, to crime dramas and missing child newspaper stories, and to any number of real or fairytale stories of girls lost in the woods and the potential for harm that lurks in reality or our imaginations.

Phipps is a professor of photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta and a former contributor to the storied New York alternative weekly “The Village Voice.” This solo exhibition, her first in Atlanta, is titled “Safe.” Here the idea of safety seems less a certainty than something longed for as this unnamed woman passes through a vast, threatening wilderness — the rural landscape of Maine familiar to the artist.

The woman is made doubly vulnerable by that flimsy, inadequate plastic garment running interference between her and the elements. As the “story” of her progress through the woods continues, she is joined by another woman in a light blue poncho, and the pair begin to navigate the wilderness together. That additional figure hints at the frequency with which such stories of lost girls circulate in the media and fiction, but also conveys an idea of progress, of passing from one realm to another; from threat to safety perhaps, but also from life to death, or from lived experience to legend.

In “Belly of the Whale” the woman stands ankle-deep in water beneath a large metal drainage pipe, as if sheltering or hiding echoed in the hood often pulled over the woman’s head. The sky above is bright, but she is caught in a dark, shadowed alternate reality.

In “The Call” the woman stands in the middle distance holding a bright orange gas can. The power lines flanking the road hint at civilization, but her solitude is emphasized by the towering trees that dwarf her. In “Rescue from Without/Magic Flight” the woman lies in a shallow pool at the edge of a river. Her splayed legs and vulnerable posture suggest injury or death. Multiple scenarios of helplessness and searching for shelter play out in these vivid, haunting color images and two video works depicting that same woman traversing a narrow wooden bridge or flailing underwater.

The work is moody, strange and capable of inducing a vicarious uneasiness at these women’s ambiguous plight. There are suggestions, near the end of this linear series, of rescue. The woman in orange poncho is joined by the woman in blue and they can be seen skirting the edges of civilization, standing at a screened door or a home, as if finally rescued from the wild.

Phipps’ narrative can be a bit one-note: on one side preoccupied with variations on the lost-in-the-woods theme, and then hinting at — depending upon one’s desire for a happy ending or tolerance for ambiguity — a sense of closure. You sense Phipps tentatively reaching for something in “Safe” but not quite reaching her mark. The series can feel a little repetitious, though it shows Phipps’ talent for mood-setting and for creating a feeling of uneasiness, isolation and threat through fairly economic means.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Life with Gracie: ‘Rewind’: Atlanta Women’s Chorus takes a look back
Life with Gracie: ‘Rewind’: Atlanta Women’s Chorus takes a look back

After 16 years supervising performing arts teachers in Cobb County schools, Melissa Arasi was starting to miss being in the classroom, making music, so much so she’d fancied starting her own chorus. As fate would have it one day in 2012, she discovered a former Walton High School student singing with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus. She sensed...
Heath Ledger's sister remembers him 10 years after his death
Heath Ledger's sister remembers him 10 years after his death

Heath Ledger’s sister, Kate Ledger, is opening up about how his family is honoring his memory 10 years after his death. Kate opened up for a rare interview with WHO last week before the 10th anniversary of her brother’s Jan. 22, 2008, death. She told the publication that keeping Ledger’s memory alive in her home has...
Kim Schaper, 39, of Atlanta lost 58 pounds
Kim Schaper, 39, of Atlanta lost 58 pounds

Former weight: 190 pounds Current weight: 132 pounds Total pounds lost: 58 pounds Height: 5 feet 4 inches Age: 39 years How long she’s kept it off: She reached her current weight in 2013. “I weighed only 75 pounds, then went up to 190 pounds, and then back down to 132 pounds — this is my healthy weight,” Schaper said. Personal...
You can hit a wall riding at home
You can hit a wall riding at home

Between living alone and working at home, and food delivery, Netflix and FaceTime, I sometimes feel like a particularly luxe and cheerful agoraphobe. But exercising remains something I have to leave the house for. Maybe not for long, though. There’s no excuse that applies to trekking to the gym if it’s a few yards from your bed. The exercise...
Review: Express aims high with lofty ‘Angels in America’
Review: Express aims high with lofty ‘Angels in America’

In a mammoth effort, Actor’s Express tackles the celebrated Tony Kushner drama “Angels in America” in all its sprawling glory, with concurrent productions of both parts to the epic saga. “Part One: Millennium Approaches,” directed by Martin Damien Wilkins (“Father Comes Home From the Wars”), unfolds over...
More Stories