Secret Garden: Sinister/Dexter

Tom MacMillan
November 24, 2008
Georgia O’Keeffe brought us full-frontal flowers in vibrant color. Photographer Yumiko Izu does the opposite.
Izu’s flowers are gray, and they emerge from darkness or curl out of the light, like evanescent wisps of smoke. Where O’Keeffe’s were bursting with lush vitality, Izu’s are drooping, and not long for this world. Their backs are turned to us, and they fold into themselves wearily.
Izu’s flower photos are currently on display at the Jennifer Jane Gallery in Westville. It’s the photographer’s second show ever, and her first in Connecticut.
The exhibition comprises a collection of platinum palladium contact prints made using an 8 x 10 view camera, and a few enormous digital enlargements.
The gallery is divided into a dark left side and a light right side. The darker, sinister half, comprising images of flowers photographed against a black background, is the more elegiac of the two. Many of the images seem appropriate for this season. All around us plants seem to wither and die and the earth turns towards darkness. The flowers are in mourning, and their hide their faces from us, lost in funereal thoughts.
Over on the lighter, dexter side of the gallery, where the images were made against a white backdrop, things feel a bit more cheery. This is the home of papery, cloud-like flowers, seemingly made of light. It’s easy to think of them as the souls of our departed spring flowers, waiting in the spirit realm to be reborn in a few months.