set design and photography by Laura Letinsky
How do these images make you feel? I feel extremely inspired, like glowing pink on the inside!
Much of Letinsky's work alludes to human presence, without including any actual figures. For example, in the Morning and Melancholia (c. 1997-2001), and the I Did Not Remember I Had Forgotten (c. 2002-2004) series, Letinsky seems to document the aftermath of a sumptuous gathering or dinner party. Faded flower petals intermingle with empty glasses and crumbs of food on partially cleared tables, often covered with a white linen that bears the mark of spilled wine. As alluded in the title Morning and Melancholia these scenes are often filled with a fresh, clear light, as though one is viewing from the perspective of the morning after, what the host failed to clean up the evening before. However, the title of the series itself is a reference to an essay by Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia," which discusses the human response to loss. The title I Did Not Remember I Had Forgotten also has a literary source; it refers to a line by St. Augustine, commenting on memory, "One would never say I did not remember I had forgotten." Letinsky responded:
I was thinking, "No, that's not right!" Actually, I felt I had just come to this moment where I did not remember that I had forgotten, and it had to do with music. I'd gone for three years without listening to music. I would drive in the car and I would want silence, or I would listen to talk shows. Then for some reason I began listening to the radio, and some of the CDs I had around, and it was almost like drinking water after being really thirsty. I took such pleasure in it. Somehow, I did not remember that I'd forgotten to turn on the music.
The Somewhere, Somewhere series (c. 2005) explores similar themes of seemingly vacated domestic settings. Empty rooms and corridors bear only traces of their inhabitants: a scrap of paper on the floor, a lamp left hanging on the bare wall – these photographs might show apartments in the liminal time between tenants, full of old memories on the one hand, and expectation on the other.
A recent exhibition of her work includes the following artist statement: "Still life is unavoidably an engagement with and commentary upon society’s material-mindedness. Laura Letinsky’s photographs of forgotten details such as wrapping paper, plastic containers, Styrofoam cups, cans, leftover food bits, and found trinkets remark upon these remnants of daily subsistence and pleasure. Of major influence are Dutch-Flemish and Italian still-life paintings whose exacting beauty documented shifting social attitudes resulting from exploration, colonization, economics, and ideas about seeing as a kind of truth. But instead of the traditional allure of a meal awaiting an unseen viewer’s consumption, Letinsky photographs the remains of the table so as to investigate the precarious relationships between ripeness and decay, delicacy and awkwardness, control and haphazardness, waste and plenitude, pleasure and sustenance. What is looked at is "after the fact," what (ma)lingers, what persists, and by inference, what is gone. The photographs in After All veer into darkness; literally, as regards the time of day the photograph is made, as well as emotionally and psychologically. Little bits and pieces hover in white grounds blown flat by blinding light, later lurking in deep inky grayed out pools. Light, through its abundance and its absence, can record and reveal as well as obscure and exaggerate. Formally, through degrees of control and chaos, the domestic scenes Letinsky photographs are redolent with the allures of domesticity (safety, comfort, familiarity) as well as its dangers (boredom, satiation, lack of desire). These liminal images are not intended as accurate visual description, rather aspiring to describe another kind of sensing. What one sees is not always visible and Letinsky explores photography’s transformative quality, changing what is typically overlooked into something splendid in its resilience."