Photographer's SoHo exhibit riffs on post-9/11 fears
"If You See Something, Say Something."
Taking shoes off in airports.
Feeling uneasy around unattended bags.
They're all part of our uneasy post-9/11 culture. But for photographer and Upper West Side native Robin Blackwood, they're also a source of inspiration for a photography exhibit, "Unattended Bags And More Songs About buildings and Shoes," which will be on display starting this week at Splashlight art gallery in Soho.
The exhibit essentially features painting-like photographs of designer shoes and bags- like a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase- set against urban backdrops from Grand Central Station and Riverside Park, to churches in Spain- where the earlier works from this project were initially exhibited. This is the show's New York premiere.
"As a Manhattanite, I was very affected by 9/11. The idea of unattended bags suddenly being a cause of panic struck me," said Blackwood, who grew up on the Upper West Side, and found her way back two decades ago. "I was trying to just use this investigation as a form of therapy and a way to explore my own fear and feelings about privacy."
Blackwood grew up around art. She studied at the Museum of Modern Art's youth program and the New York Studio School. She is a distant relative of Edwin H. Land, the inventor of the Polaroid camera, and her grandfather was an architect. Her work has been exhibited in France and Spain and she received a national grant from the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation for a watercolor series called "Hooks." "Unattended Bags" has always been her long term, and ever-evolving project.
"One person will see a bag as a threat and another person may see it a bag," said Blackwood. "People at Riverside Park will call the police about every plastic bag in the wind but a homeless person could leave a bag full of clothes and no one will say anything."
Almost the entire exhibit features designer bags and shoes -- like a sparkly Betsey Johnson shoe set against the backdrop of people exiting a church. And although some of the items were actually unattended bags or shoes taken off at security checkpoints, the fashion-conscious Blackwood staged most of her photographic scenes.
Why high-fashion and not plain-old backpacks and Macy's pocketbooks? Blackwood said it has to do with the aesthetic of her photos matching the beauty of the couture items.
Most of her photos in the New York exhibit are new, including a piece inspired by the plight of Edward Snowden. She also pointed to a piece which she found to be particularly poignant: a red, white and blue high-heeled shoe, and in the background can be seen a sign that warns commuters that if they resist being searched, they will be arrested.
"This really boils down to what we, the free people carry around with us and what we wear, and with everything going on in the world around us, it's about what we choose to pay attention to, and what we ignore."