Labors of love: Books by Gretchen Garner and Filipe Casaca

a minha casa e onde estas | Filipe Casaca

A Certain Curve | Gretchen Garner

Certain books just have to be done. With or without financing, reason, or likelihood of success. Nothing more, or less, than the realization of images and words in a sequence of printed pages, bound together and available to hold in one’s hands, will suffice.
These two self-published titles fit the bill. Self-publishing enabled these books to come to fruition. Although they are both compelling and marvelous in their own terms, neither would swell a conventional publisher’s coffers. Their physical modesty, however, should not be taken for a lack of content.
Both books address personal passion, which, for better or worse, is a compelling force. In Garner’s case, a lifetime of looking and appreciating art as an expression of life. Garner staked her claim as an editor and curator during the 1970s and 1980s; A Certain Curve reflects work that she admired, collected, and was given during those years and later. There are about 90 pieces reproduced in the book, including photographs, prints, paintings, textiles, and sculpture; Garner gives each piece a brief note, indicating her connections to the artist and the work. Some artists are familiar, others relatively obscure. Nearly two-thirds of the artists present are women. The great gift of this book is the presence of an informed narrator who assumes roles as curator, historian, memoirist, and advocate, without ever giving up her innate fascination for the work she finds attractive. Such honesty is becoming, and rare.
Portuguese photographer Filipe Casaca’s book is also a loving tribute, in the form of a set of photographs of Teresa, the artist’s wife. There are innumerable precedents for such projects–Edward/Charis, Emmet/Edith, Alfred/Georgia, etc. But while the set-up is simple, the results vary from couple to couple. In the best case scenarios, the photographs are more than the sum of man and woman. One plus one should equal at least three–there is the viewer, the viewed, and the view in every case. Casaca’s photographs are dark, shadowy things, but the female energy radiates within each. These are somber, thoughtful, and beautiful pictures, precious in that they conceal more than they reveal. Teresa, naked, never becomes a generic, objectified “nude”; we see her face, and we know that she is relating to the photographer, reflecting their relationship. The photographs manifest the nuances of a dialogue, an exchange in glances.
I am grateful to both Garner and Casaca for their labors, for ignoring the obstacles posed by reason, and for making the results available.

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