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Fantasy is like poetry; it can point to the truth. – Arnold Newman
Artist Fran Forman has gained an enviable reputation for her fantastical, often whimsical photographic paintings that offer a means of escape from daily life. But the world is a rough place these days, rife with hazards and threats. In her solo show, Forman delves into this unsettling territory with newfound gravitas and tension. Her magical images have taken a lovely dark and mystical turn in Merging the Known and the Unknown, which will be on view at Pucker Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston through July 17, 2016.
Forman has always created dynamic visual tension with her colorful graphic designs. In her current work, this is broadened into a sense of visceral and emotional uncertainty, conveyed through surrealistic, directional light and painterly layering of moody hues. Each frame seems devoted in some manner to darkness, whether from encroaching edges, textural veils or foreboding skies. Angled perspectives create a pronounced depth of field, paralleling the psychological complexity of Forman’s narratives.
Forman’s new work incorporates many more adult subjects than her earlier pieces, although she still favors those who appear vulnerable, particularly young women. In addition to her signature inclusion of birds, both in and out of cages, the appearance of wild animals places her subjects in danger of a newly uncertain fate. Forman deliberately lets the viewer wonder whether it is the animals or the people who pose the greatest threat to each other, in yet another of her allegorical puzzles. The use of masks and covered eyes further the sense of both mystery and menace. Forman’s tenuous balance of innocence and peril is palpable.
And yet, Forman’s images never let go of hope. She injects faith, or at least yearning, through her choice of predominantly warm tones and the liberal use of symbolically uplifting natural elements like placid waters and focal areas of bright sky – even the occasional rainbow – that offer the prospect of brighter tomorrows. The sheer variety of Forman’s imagery is a testimony to her inventiveness and energy. But what makes her latest work especially intriguing is Forman’s ability to transport the viewer into fantastical worlds where trepidation exists in a delicate balance with promise. Forman makes the certainty of uncertainty exquisitely dark and inviting.
For directions, hours and more information about this show, go to: http://www.puckergallery.com/exhibitions.html
Feature Image: “Sailboat, 2015” (detail) by Fran Forman (courtesy of the artist and Pucker Gallery, Boston).