As a kind of rudely exposed room, the diorama lends itself to a scenes of concentrated, discovered domesticity: interior life with a narrowing focus. And indeed, artist Vanessa Saft does populate many of her multi-dimensional boxes with implied but oddly inscrutable domestic narratives. In some of the more scrutable ones, a faceless female figure knits, makes wardrobe decisions and deals with apparent plumbing disasters. But this recurrent Everywoman character is so precisely poised and kinetic, and so oblivious to your observation, that she seems either in the middle of a very disciplined physical act or on the verge of striking in a way that is almost ninja – both in terms of the precision of the action and its mysterious ends and purposes.
Saft’s figures share an unapologetically raw, unfinished quality. “I leave the seams visible and awkward lumps,” writes the artist. The rooms are composed of elements familiar and alien: fancy wallpapers with hanging cages, dream logic and psychologically suggestive hidden chambers. But it is the urgent, in-the-middle-of-something action that really animates the eight dioramas in Saft’s sequence “I Can’t Get You Close Enough,” which opens at the Team Love RavenHouse Gallery in New Paltz on Saturday, June 13.
The diorama was originally a special-effects mobile theater unit co-developed by Louis Daguerre, the father of photography. Saft, who has a background in experimental theater, exploits the theatricality of the form thoroughly, but does so with plenty of misdirection and striking incongruity. The situations in these colorfully titled works are rife with implied-but-playfully-elusive narrativity. One of the most situation-specific pieces – titled Now She Was Sure the Fox Would Never Find Her – is also among the most absurd and ambiguous. Saft’s very acute sense of urgency in the moment largely leaves you guessing about the befores and the afters.
Team Love RavenHouse celebrates the opening of “I Can’t Get You Close Enough,” which also features one large, participatory and multimedia-enhanced diorama, on Saturday, June 13 at 5 p.m. Music will be provided by Bill Brovold and Saft’s husband, the keyboardist Jaime Saft, a veteran of the New York avant-garde scene and the prime voice in the excellent New Zion Trio locally.
Team Love RavenHouse is located at 11 Church Street in New Paltz. For more information, visit www.tl-rh.com.
Vanessa Saft, “I Can’t Get You Close Enough” opening, Saturday, June 13, 5 p.m., Team Love RavenHouse Gallery, 11 Church Street, New Paltz; www.tl-rh.com.