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Event Details

The Devil's Alphabet Open Reception

Monday, March 17, 2014 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Joann Cole Mitte Gallery 1

Opening Reception on Monday, March 17, 5-7 PM with a lecture by Catherine Edelman in the Edelman Gallery

“Over three and one half years I have spent alone amidst these 8 rooms, 7 mirrors, 6 clocks, 2 minds and 199 panes of glass. And this is what I saw here. This is what I learned.” – Lauren E. Simonutti

In 2002, photographer Lauren E. Simonutti (1968-2012) acquired a house that was in a certain state of disrepair. In 2006, the artist was diagnosed with rapid cycling, mixed-state bipolar with schizo-affective disorder. It was at this time that she turned the camera on herself and the space in which she was living to bravely and beautifully chronicle the mental illness that would eventually take her life. Of her decision to record the struggle, Simonutti said, “I could document my ascension from madness to as much a level of sanity for which one of my composition could hope or I could leave a document of it all in the case that I should lose.” Through the practice of what she called a “voluntary but not quite self-imposed isolation,” the house became the model for her first comprehensive large format project and, in turn, “became my backdrop, my setting, my refuge and, eventually, a collaborator, as I began to bleed myself into the frame.” As her work progressed , so did her relationship to the rehabilitation of the house, and in turn “restoration became re-creation.”

The beauty of Simonutti’s work makes a place for itself not only in the personal story chronicled within it, but also in the way the artist made the images. “100% digital free,” Simonutti proudly claimed, as she gained the visual effects in the images either from the camera via gestures and movement accompanied by exposures that range from 2 minutes to 8 hours or through the artful approach that she took in the darkroom, often timing exposures by the length of songs.

Lauren Simonutti’s life ended in 2012 but she left behind chronicles of that life in what she referred to as “chapters,” one of which comprises this exhibition. The Devil’s Alphabet contains 26 images, taken with a 5x7 view camera. Shot over the entirety of the house, it is the most linear of all the chapters that she created and yet the images themselves were shot out of sequence. Each corresponding to a different letter in the alphabet, they presented an opportunity to the artist for “finding order after the fact and trusting in the direction in which you’re being led.” Fulfilling the goal of giving each letter its own personality, the artist also offers a glimpse into a life in which, “nothing is real but everything is true."

Mary Mikel Stump
Common Experience
Lectures, Visual Arts
Faculty, General Interest, Staff, Undergraduate Students
The Devil's Alphabet Open Reception