States Of Being


Oct 11 – Nov 10, 2007
513 West 20th Street New York, NY 10011
Press Kit

Press Release



October 11-November 10, 2007

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 18, 6-8 PM

Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present ‘Faith’ Jackie Nickerson’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. ‘Faith’ is a compelling portrayal of a hidden world, the Catholic religious orders of Ireland. Nickerson was granted unprecedented access to places that have never been seen before by outsiders.

For two-and-a-half years, Nickerson photographed inside the churches, convents and abbeys of Ireland. ‘Faith’ juxtaposes gentle portraits with straightforward images of daily rituals and communal devotion—neatly swept wooden floors on long corridors, sunny libraries attended by Virgin Mary figurines—to suggest an austere existence grounded in optimism, strength and contentment.

The simplicity of Nickerson’s images invokes the muted and restrained palette of Fra Angelico, bringing an often beatific air to her tranquil subjects. While never suggesting that she is able to divine or represent the veiled mysteries of faith, Nickerson does manage to honestly present a vocational life driven by clarity of purpose and personal courage.

The visual language is based on the extensive research of religious art and Christian symbolism that provides the foundation of the series.The work is full of symbolism using objects, colors, geometric shapes (as found in icon writing), and composition. The emphasis is on the concentration of commitment and the resultant physicality of both the sitters and their environment, which goes beyond any specific Christian ritual but can be an example of any life based on total commitment to spirituality.

While a painterly inheritance is palpable, the intimacy between the technology of the camera and the use of light in the photographs is especially strong. The blaze of light through a window, the gloss of polish on a floor, the echo of light down a corridor, the pressure of light within a face, all bespeak the spirituality and discipline which together create the beauty of silence and community we witness here. A statue, a saucepan, a table or a chair are not merely dead objects; they are mute, but alive. The photographs create silence as a dimension, although they also allow for conversation and cheerfulness.

These are communities steeped in an interiority which they have discovered is not their own but something wider and deeper than themselves of which they are a part. The purity of line in these shots — verticals, horizontals, deepening perspectives — indicates a certain completeness, a spiritual integrity that belongs to and is part of the goal as well as the effect of the monastic spirit. Yet too there is the implication of the historical time of these institutions. The iconography has that unmistakable combination of Catholic revivalism and kitsch of the nineteenth century, of the Virgin and the Sacred Heart, the anti-secular devotions of that era that stand out here like insignia of time in a world otherwise concerned to register its timeless dailiness. We are looking here at an eternal present and at a historical past. Jackie Nickerson’s achievement is to embed one within the other with such gentle skill that their contrast with one another produces little more than an eddy of conflict that perhaps deepens their meditative calm.

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