Lawrence Chen, Adjunct Professor of Art
Wave Rider, 2000, Photography, 13"x9", by Lawrence Chen
By Katie Kresser, SPU Assistant Professor of Art History
Photo by John Keatley
Lawrence Chen’s “Wave Rider,” like Feldman’s “Sheep Gate,” is a piece that was created long before the hope exhibition was ever conceived. But like both Lasworth’s and Feldman’s works, Chen’s photo demonstrates how a “closed” vista can summon an effect of hope much more powerfully than outright “showing” ever could.
Here is a fisherman who, with his intense posture, his taut fishing pole, and his sun-bleached hat, calls to mind ancient
associations: the humble fishermen at the Sea of Galilee, “fishers of men,” and, more generally, the “working man,” who labors and provides for those he loves. These associations come together in a picture that hides what it shows, and shows what it hides.
The fisherman seeks sustenance from the water, but we can’t see the broad expanse he’s fishing from. Instead we see a high, blue, wave-shaped wall that symbolizes water (points toward it), but nevertheless covers it up. It is this very “closing” that opens our mind to grander themes — of “life-giving waters,” of oceanic
vastness, of life arising from the depths.
Photography has sometimes been considered the most literal and unimaginative of media, but in this photo we see why this perception is so wrong. We are given free reign to imagine what must lie behind the “surface” view. The presence of a bird’s nest just below the fisherman must have seemed like such a lucky coincidence for the photographer! Just like the wall, it hides abundant life behind a visual barrier, and complements the meaning of the piece.
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