Monday, November 06, 2006

A Day in the City, and An Eye on Life and Death

Yesterday my BFF and I took the 8:40 AM bus to New York City and the #3 train to Eastern Parkway Brooklyn to see the Annie Leibovitz retrospective at the Brooklyn Art Museum.

Oh my. Words fail.

It was a fascinating exhibit. All Leibovitz' portraiture-- remember nude pregnant Demi Moore? Remember Mikhail Baryshnikov being lifted by another man on the beach? Remember Meryl Streep, face painted white, pulling at her beautiful skin like a rubbery mask?-- all that was shown on the same walls as family photos of Leibovitz' three young children, her parents, siblings, and longtime companion Susan Sontag, and all that, in turn, was on the same walls as enormous landscape photography... lacy birch trees in upstate New York, a wadi in Jordan.

The exhibit was called "A Photographer's Life," and that is exactly what we were immersed in as we roamed the galleries. We saw a photgraph of Mitsuko Uchida seated at the piano and wringing her hands expressively. We saw an abandoned bicycle next to a pool of blood on a street in Kosovo. We saw Susan Sontag in the bath after her mastectomy. We saw her body, dressed for the funeral.

Death was a strong and pervasive theme in the exhibit, especially in the personal photos. We saw Annie Leibovitz' father on his deathbed, and then her mother weeping in bed, with a daughter clinging to her on either side. There was a photo I'd never seen before, taken in Langley VA, of a stealth figher. The photographer was looking up at it as it flew overhead, so close you almost felt you could touch it. There was a sad and spent Johnny Cash on his front porch, watching as daughter Roseanne and June Carter Cash playing music together. In a film that was shown as part of the exhibit Roseanne Cash describes how, during the shoot she looked over at the photographer to see that she was weeping.

Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord. Yes, they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.

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