Untitled #12 (from the series III Form + Void Full), 2010, by Laura Letinsky
It’s no fun being misunderstood. Not that photographer Laura Letinsky is complaining. Often categorized as a great romanticist, the Canada-born, Chicago-based artist is admired for eye-arresting images that evoke the lusciousness of Dutch and Flemish still lifes and the crisp, color-rich delight of Irving Penn. And while her best-known shots—tablescapes that evoke a party’s morning-after disarray—do project a moody sense of loss, her work touches most deeply on the notion that things are not what they appear once they are photographed.
Her latest pictures, showcased in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Chicago Works series, represent a determined attempt to distance herself from any narrative of domesticity and decay. Comprising actual objects and existing images (her own or torn from the pages of magazines), these compositions refract the still-life format and tweak perspective to create an ambiguous sense of space.
“People were reading the photographs in a way that wasn’t necessarily the way I had hoped for them to be understood,” says Letinsky. “I wanted to expand the dialogue, to make clear that how we experience things perceptually and how we experience things photographically are really very, very different.” Chicago Works: Laura Letinsky is on display February 7–April 17 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., 312-280-2660