SHELLBURNE THURBER

For the last two decades, Shellburne Thurber has examined the psychological qualities of space through the medium of photography. She first addressed this theme in a series of images of the childhood home of her mother shortly after her death. Thurber states, "I became intrigued by the uncanny way in which inhabited spaces take on the energy of those who live and work in them."

The works presented in this exhibition document a group of older Southern houses. Although they are no longer inhabited, each contains vestiges of its earlier occupants. Curtains still hang on some of the windows reminding us of a recent dweller. Other windows, stripped of such comforts, are bare and sometimes broken. Occasionally a chair, couch or bed occupies the room. More often, the rooms are empty of furniture. The eye is drawn to crumbling architectural details: a door, a window, a fireplace, fading paint or wallpaper.

Light is a central element in the images; it both illuminates and defines the interior spaces. The plaster has partially fallen off the walls, exposing the brick and wood structure of the house. The water-damaged plaster walls retain some of their former color, a reminder of their past grandeur. The room is abandoned and decayed, yet it does not register as gloomy. Instead, the light streaming in from the open door and window sets the tone of the picture. The brightly illuminated room becomes a document of change, the passage of time and our inevitable mortality. Thurber powerfully invokes the former inhabitants of each house. The viewer imagines people living in these houses years ago, and also remembers other old houses, the dwellings of parents or grandparents from the same period. This combination of memory and imagination gives these spaces their psychological charge.

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