B. Ingrid Olson's "Double-Ended Arrow"

B. Ingrid Olson’s current show entitled double-ended arrow at the Simon Subal Gallery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan seemingly reflects a surveyed yet philosophically directed body of work from the 29 year old artist from Colorado. Her work resists being tethered to any particular medium, presenting itself as a collage of sculptural and photographic elements but push the boundaries of visual accessibility and understanding. Blake Gopnik of Artnet News even likened her work to that of master painter Cézanne, seemingly for their sensitivity to the instabilities and idiosyncrasies of real, perceptual vision and perspective. Gopnik also associate the voyeuristic self-portraiture to the work of Francesca Woodman: an American photographer who used experimental film photography techniques to manipulate visual effects, often obscuring the clarity of her own figure.

It is perhaps impossible to dissociate the nature of the obscured female self-portrait from a reference to Woodman’s work, but the images presented in Olson’s show are certainly distinct in their aesthetic of perplexing perspective: through her almost neurotically deliberate utilization of perceptual framing and perspective, her work incites a emotional tension between inviting and resisting the viewer’s gaze.

As a psychology major, what captured me the most about Olson’s photographic collages layer images is their allusion to Freudian psychoanalytical concepts as described in Laura Mulvey’s seminal writings on the art historical “male gaze,” deconstructing the role of the viewer’s scopophilia in moving image art but harkening back to painterly traditions as well. Utilizing visual symbols such as frames, artificial and real shadows (created by lighting the sculptural elements of the pieces), and mirrors or mirrored representations, Olson’s work references psychoanalytical mechanisms to achieve self-knowledge and uncover the visceral nature of consciousnesses submerged beneath the visible, or the “ego” in Freudian terms. Ultimately, Olson’s sensibilities for framing the female body as her own manifest images that are characteristically feminine in their reflections of female self perception. Olson’s show presents powerful images that, by way of spatial and temporal confusion and anonymity, effectively resist narrative, visual accessibility, and thus objectification; images that simply could not have been concocted by a male artist.