For two completely separate reasons, Steve Geer and Paula Shur were compelled, as shut-ins, to revisit their older work in lieu of creating new. Geer, because of a minor surgery that kept him housebound, and Shur, due to the pandemic. The results of these two artists’ forays into their previous bodies of work, reusing, layering and forcing various earlier ideas together, are fascinating and worthy of consideration.
Geer, largely a photographer of architecture, drew out some of his dizzying straight-up-from-the-ground images, multiplied them in kaleidoscopic fashion, and in some, added images of taxidermied animals from museums. In one, assorted creatures scale the peaks of steel and glass structures and in another, primates scramble across the slick surfaces. In his statement, Geer addresses the future of the planet, musing on the possibility of nature eventually taking back what we have squandered and laid waste to. “In these times of destruction, extreme political polarization, pandemic, and war we wonder if humanity has a future. Will we collectively wake up in time or is our species an evolutionary experiment gone wrong?” He sets the mind in motion with these images, particularly one in which prehistoric-looking reptiles appear to be seizing control of a shining metropolis. Geer goes on to say, “If we destroy ourselves, who will inherit the earth? Will they evolve to be more intelligent than us or is evolution done with what we call intelligence?” This work, created from earlier series, is thought-provoking at the least, and direly cautionary in its power.
Shur, on the other hand, looked inward while in lockdown. Using older work, she layered images from past series to create what she calls “abstract portraits depicting stages of life as we pass through time.” She depicts moments representing emotions and stages of life. Some of the images, including “In the Mind’s Eye” and “A Moment of Grace,” are beautiful, reaching our own sense of nostalgia. With “In the Mind’s Eye,” Shur gives us a lush forest setting as a background with a woman draped in a cheesecloth veil, one large eye gazing at us from the photograph. In “There I am,” the silhouette of a figure is half-repeated in a frame, as if within a mirror. The images, as they move in chronology through life, seem to move toward the obscurity of old age and eventual disappearance. The colors of the images are soft and faded, adding to the sense of history and time. However, they are matted in varying shades of white and cream, which distracts from the the beauty of the work itself.
Viewing these two distinct bodies of work and recognizing they were made for disparate reasons of enforced solitude that spawned intense creativity, one has to believe that there is hope for humanity yet. Geer’s ponderings on the end of the world as we know it may not be as dire as they seem—perhaps the key to our survival is artistic imagination and resilience.
Through February 26 at Perspective Gallery, 1310 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.