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Photography Review

Visions of land, sea, sky, and more

Griffin Museum highlights four disparate artists

By Mark Feeney
Globe Staff / March 7, 2011

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WINCHESTER — “Though I build on past experience,’’ Barbara Crane writes, “I attempt to eradicate previous habits of seeing and thinking.’’ She certainly does. Crane’s all over the map, and it’s a map very much of her own making. This is a photographer whose eye — and imagination — just won’t quit. One marvels at the sheer restlessness of the career on display in “Challenging Vision: Photographs by Barbara Crane.’’ Exciting, if also a bit confounding, it’s one of the four exhibitions currently at the Griffin Museum of Photography through May 1.

Crane, who’s been a photographic fixture in Chicago for half a century, is equally at home in color and black-and-white. Processes she uses in the show include platinum/palladium prints, gelatin silver prints, and several types of Polaroids. Her subjects are even more varied: mushrooms, commuters, beachgoers, butterflies, dead birds, and detritus of all sorts. Sometimes she works almost as a documentarian (the beachgoers), more often she flirts with abstraction. Her titles indicate her commitment to a higher playfulness: “Zipperscape,’’ “Bicentennial Polka,’’ “Tar Findings’’ (a series), and “Sand Findings’’ (another series). Crane turns 83 on March 19, yet it’s fair to say hers remains very much a career in progress, and proudly so.

Duration is the dotted line photography signs on. Or tries to. Every time a shutter clicks, the flow of time is arrested in two dimensions — even as that flow, ever-unarrestable, keeps right on going in three. This tension between stasis and change is central to “Rita Maas: At Home.’’ It consists of images from two series, “Shades & Shadows,’’ in black-and-white, and “Skylight Views,’’ in color. For the former, Maas photographed shifts in light and shadow on a window shade. For the latter, she shot from beneath a skylight, tracing the change of seasons through the presence (or absence) of rain, fallen leaves, ice, and so on. Neither Maas nor her camera moves, but the world beyond them certainly does. Each series is an exercise in delicate, exacting scrutiny.

Jeri Eisenberg works at the visual intersection of painting and photography. She takes soft-focus photographs of locations where land and water come together. She prints the pictures on fine paper, which she then places on acrylic panels. Several of the examples of her work in “Jeri Eisenberg: Sea/Shore’’ are disarmingly beautiful, recalling small-scale Mark Rothko canvases. All are somewhat frustrating, equally uneasy with representation and decoration. That said, uneasiness can be its own reward. “On the Sea, No. 8’’ discovers a place where lavender and mauve approach reality without ever quite touching it.

Svjetlana Tepavcevic’s multimedia presentation “The Sea Inside: Portraits of Waves’’ consists of the artist’s digital images of surf, which she takes up close, in the ocean. Accompanying the images is a recording of a new age piano piece by Dustin O’Halloran. The images are shown on a flat-screen TV. The effect is vaguely mystical and otherworldly — Surf’s up? Surf’s way, way up — or at least as mystical and otherworldly as something can appear on a flat-screen TV. Perhaps the format works against the images. Hung discretely on the wall they might make a bigger splash.

Mark Feeney can be reached at mfeeney@globe.com.

CHALLENGING VISION: Photographs by Barbara Crane

RITA MAAS: At Home

JERI EISENBERG: Sea/Shore

THE SEA INSIDE:

Portraits of Waves — Svjetlana Tepavcevic

At: the Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester,

through May 1. 781-729-1158,

www.griffinmuseum.org