Photographer’s theatrical style looks pretty, lacks substance

Art Review


Through March 22. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Gallery See, Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta, 1600 Peachtree Street, NE. Building C, Fourth Floor, 404-815-2931,

Bottom line: A pretty but inconsequential mix of commercial and fine art work shows photographer Claire Rosen's primary interest is quickly arresting the distracted 21st-century consumer.

Photographer Claire Rosen’s work is undeniably pretty. What, after all, is lovelier than young women in voluminous, ground-dusting dresses surrounded by dramatically crumbling old buildings open to the sky?

Rosen’s models in her Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta show “Reverie” look like characters out of a music video or romance novel. A selection of Rosen’s work hangs on the fourth-floor Gallery See at SCAD, where it is undoubtedly meant to inspire students who long to — like Rosen — make some green after their very pricey art educations.

The photographer’s theatrical style is epitomized by works such as “Fairie Catching,” where a girl in a long white dress, whose stooped posture mimics the bent Spanish-moss-draped tree behind her, collects glowing creatures by a river bank.

Rosen is a 2006 graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who works in both fine and commercial art for companies like Neiman Marcus, Random House and Alex Randall Bespoke Lighting. Her romantic, at times quirky, style has a surface appeal that one imagines would lend itself nicely to the business of selling products.

“Reverie” includes examples of Rosen’s commissioned, commercial work and fine art work. All exhibit a shared tone of fantastic, theatrical imagery deeply invested in nature, and guided by the high drama of Greek myth and Brothers Grimm-worthy fairy tales of young girls and children adrift in natural settings.

Several pieces exhibited here draw heavily from Greek mythology. The Greek myth of Icarus, whose waxen wings are burned by flying too close to the sun, is dramatized in Rosen’s “Icarus Fallen” (2007), in which a young woman in a long olive-colored dress and angel wings lies prone beside a ladder. The Narcissus myth is played out in Rosen’s “Narcissus” (2008), a fashion magazine spin on the legend of a young man killed by his own vanity. Rosen’s image a young woman in requisite ball gown is entranced by her own reflection in a pool of water.

While the look of Rosen’s lyrical portraits of young women in stylized settings centers on a muted color scheme, a series of images of parrots, parakeets and macaws set against vintage wallpaper backdrops benefits from a focus on intense color and an interesting thematic juxtaposition. These are some of Rosen’s quirkier, more original works. The birds, in essence, perch amid the wallpapers’ pretend-trees, flowers and simulation of nature. This collision of real nature and representations of nature is a funny effect.

Works from a campaign for Alex Randall Bespoke Lighting offer images featuring Rosen’s repertoire of dramatic backdrops of nature and decaying buildings, now accessorized by an unsurprising focus on lighting. In an image called “Beware the Squirrels,” a group of clearly taxidermied squirrels appear to string a tree with lights. Two young children observe the scene from below. When Rosen pushes the lyrical envelope in works like this one, too often the results are less charming, even stultifying.

Such images are distracting enough, perhaps, to cause someone to pause while surveying a glossy fashion magazine, but like much of Rosen’s work, they don’t resonate much beyond their momentarily beguiling surfaces and tepid melodramas.

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