Irit Shemly-Taiber Artwork Details
Profane Sand: Eros as Consolation in the Photography of Irit Shemly-Taiber
No sooner does the artist's bare body appear before us in these photographs than it vanishes, hidden by faceless anonymity, transformed into a fragment of itself by the tyranny of the omnipresent frame. Limbs are turned on themselves; the skin flows into the sand or is covered by it. The form of the body before us is enwrapped in semi-transparent cloth. Our focus is drawn towards the figure's pelvis, but where we expect to view her intimate anatomy, we are instead confronted with the head of Athena, staring out at us with marbled eyes.
In the reverse apotheosis of Shemly-Taiber's photographs, the artist is revealed to the viewer in a living, earthly and earthy form as Aphrodite. The Goddess speaks to the viewer in the Greek fragments: torsos lacking arms, legs, or noses; heads wrenched off their bodies by the vicissitudes of the ages. Aphrodite, the acme of femininity and erotica, is shown to be crippled, broken, a lost fragment in the sands of time. The sand continues to accumulate even as the shutter of the camera brings them and the figure they entrap into the present moment, into a here and now without end.
These fragments, though, are as vital as any whole being: Aphrodite dances, runs, lies down, and is bathed in sand. Her loins warm the cold head of Athena ("one of three gods Aphrodite could not overcome"), perhaps using the latter's wisdom to quench the flames of her passions, for a time. Her languid body is revealed in all its sensuality: an object of desire of any passing Pygmalion.
In this compelling work, the artist is both sculptress and sculpture; image and person are inextricably intertwined. Cloth, sand, and flesh share the same visual continuum, with the body lent the transparency of cloth, the sand spilling over Aphrodite's breast fabricating a curtain, and what first appears to be skin is revealed to be sand after all. The waves of Athena's hair resonate with the waves in the dunes of sand. A too-sudden motion of the hand of the living goddess, outrunning the speed of the shutter, leaves a shadowy trail on the photograph - perhaps the shadow of sand in flight, of cloth fluttering in the wind. The graininess of the sand is indistinguishable from the graininess of the print; and subject becomes object, as the image of fabric is printed on fabric. The body of Aphrodite and its representation in substance and image are fused together, but Athena's head, proud in white marble, is divorced from her body. It lies in the intimate embrace of her rival - perhaps the crowning head of a child now born, but perhaps just a demure fig leaf plucked from the ages to conceal Aphrodite's most private self.
Artistic review by Yejy Meichlowitz, Artist & Art Critic, Bezal'el Art Academy, Jerusalem, Israel