The Order of Things with Jennifer Robison
Photographer finds beauty in the environment
Noted photographer Jennifer Robison has a captivating exhibit, “The Order of Things,” opening soon in the East Bank District at the Bossier Art Council’s East Bank Gallery. After years of successful fine art photography and gallery work, Jennifer said that this is her first time ever to make photographs just for herself without thinking about how to monetize the art. In deciding what she wanted to investigate, she considered butterflies, which first appeared in her art while healing from thyroid cancer and reflected in her previous wondrous underwater series.
Jennifer started with Morpho butterflies. “The Order of Things” is a nod to French philosopher Michel Foucault. “These pictures have multiple layers of meaning depending on the time you invest in learning, about me, about the puzzle, about the whole series. With a Scanning Electron Microscope, you can look at something on a nanometer scale, so I was able to look at a butterfly wing on a 1-nanometer scale to investigate structural color. No one will argue the butterfly is blue, some might say it’s purple or brown, but none would say it was clear.
It’s a jumping-off point on how people judge by appearance. We are taught what to perceive from a young age. It’s hard to let go of judgments, how we perceive the world around us, even when we are wrong. It’s hard for people to let go of what they believe emphatically, so I investigate that through environment.”
A shared interest in the art and science of structural color and her daughter Ella’s studies precipitated an introduction presenting Jennifer the opportunity to work with Dr. Nathan Lord, Department of Entomology at Louisiana State University. “I had to learn about taxonomy, how you make a color-accurate image of a colorless object, and I had to learn how all of it is calculated, the optics. I didn’t have to understand it at such a high level before.
“The more I learned, the more I made relationships with our humanity through the similarities in the insect world.”
Her daughter is also a focal point of artistic images presented in this show. Her cream skin and red hair flow with the blues and greens, enhancing the image without overshadowing other key elements. Rather than directing and maneuvering the model, the familiarity of having photographed her daughter her whole life allowed Jennifer to focus more on the environment.
“Ella has over 1,000 butterfly wings glued to her for one image. Is it real or not real, simulations? She has a photograph of those wings; then in front there are real butterfly wings attached. As you move, the color shifts. Two people looking at the same image can see two different colors at the same time. The level of participation of the viewer determines how they perceive the piece.
“Some may walk by briefly, not even realizing there are real butterflies attached.
“It’s ridiculous how much work, how many facets, went into creating and developing this series.
“Just the fact that there are so many layers – it’s not just one thing. I really enjoy listening to what other people feel when thy look at it.” From Feb. 1 through Mar. 30 at the Bossier Arts Council’s East Bank Gallery with an opening reception held Feb. 10, 6-8 p.m., we have an opportunity to look closely, step back and consider “The Order of Things.”