Elevate at 21c showcases the work of artists in the greater St Louis community, highlighting the range and depth of visual culture in this dynamic, ever-changing city. Energy and implied narrative characterize the multiple-exposure portraits of Tiff J. Sutton and the photographs of monumental interiors and facades by Michael Eastman. The contrast between the artists’ subjects illuminates their ability to capture human energy in many forms.
The implied presence of people within empty spaces creates energy in Eastman’s works. Eastman has spent more than five decades photographing interiors and facades throughout the world, especially Havana, Paris, and Rome. Through his precise documentation of human spaces, Eastman’s large-scale photographs create mysterious narratives about time and place. In many of the images in this exhibition, synergy implies a more direct representation of people present within these spaces – a neon lit painting of a saint in San Lazaro, Havana, a headless figure on the stair pediment in Fidel’s Stairwell, and even a man, made faceless by the light streaming from behind him in Green Doorway. Eastman captures with precision the decaying texture and brilliant color of human habituated rooms. Viewers are left with implied narratives about the lives absent from these spaces, as Eastman’s imagery is communicating human presence and hope, even amidst physical emptiness.”
Tiff J Sutton
Sutton’s figures fill the photo frame, shifting within it and appearing monumental in their energy, free and unbound by societal expectations. Her portraits show an intimacy and intentional care – her subjects are friends and Black women. By placing Black femininity at the forefront, Sutton reveals the complexity of her subjects through layered and introspective portraits. She takes her time with her photo sessions, allowing her subjects to become comfortable in front of the camera and carefully revealing facets of their energies and personalities. In the Black Body Radiation series, the subjects are photographed within their home environments, giving us additional insight into their lives. Sutton uses different cameras and a multitude of images of the same woman, layering them sporadically into one frame, overlapping texture and color, clarity of expression, and suggested movement. The resulting portraits document the intensity, and the intellectual and emotional imprint of her sitters, and ultimately explores the possibility of multiple meanings through implied narrative. Sutton’s non-monolithic portraits radiate with life. She takes care with her subjects, lovingly portraying each through movement, personal space, and as an expression of their Blackness.