Jenna Westra

Jenna Westra’s photographs take place in the overlapping spaces of performance, portraiture, and dreams. These are all zones for shared collaborative improvisation — living settings for interactions between memory and presentness, intention and chance.

Exhibition Twincheck
Artists Jenna Westra
Date 05.09.2023 - 22.10.2023
Venue Lubov, New York
Text Josh Brand
All images Courtesy by the artist and Lubov, NY

Like photography, all human action unfolds memory. All the lenses, films, chemicals, papers, and other materials of analog picture-making are good stand-ins for our minds, eyes, mouths, bodies, limbs — for many mortal senses and forms. Likewise, memory and photography are twinned; bound together by their mirrored states of reflection and constraint.

A picture is bordered by its legible edges, while memory’s frontiers are always more porous and free. Both states (of sight, of recollection) still knock on the same roots of perception, and on the same eventual nerve-endings of our being in the midst of other people, places, bodies, and machines.

A camera marks memory by disconnecting time from other time. The filmmaker Chris Marker wrote that remembering is “not the opposite of forgetting, but rather, it’s lining.” Photography cuts and makes stasis from actions, joys, and experiences that can, in life, only ever be continuous and changing. In Westra’s photographs these edges between initial reception and eventual memory are vividly apparent, but sometimes contradict their usual roles. These dividing lines wake us up to the limits of images, just as they tune us in to the endless puzzles posed by the people depicted within these particular pictures.

Westra’s photographs make rhythms out of the edges of actions. In sequences of pictures we see limbs folding into glyphs of poses and changes, making whole strange sentences out of human movement. The rhymes and reflections of these images are stable, available, solid. Their solidity slows us down, providing structure for the act of seeing, while their flexibility keeps us moving in the dance between sight and memory.

Like faces in dreams, the faces of the figures in Westra’s work are sometimes obscured — they often turn away from us, engaged in some focus or action or thought that cannot yet be caught by our eyes. Some things in these pictures remain private — known solely by Westra’s collaborators, never available in any complete way to the photographer, nor to the viewers of the photographs.

Photography records dreams and realities with variable and unpredictable degrees of fidelity. Westra’s pictures transmit her own once-present/now-past states of experience — spaces of provisional collaborations and ongoing balancing acts — at the same time as they project new views of shared life. Here we are, in rooms, sharing time, with many possibilities for communication, rhythm, tenderness, invention, wit, and mutual support.

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