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A New “Marion” and a New Clue

“Dream of the Playground Melting into Night” by Lawrence Russ

As the title of this post promises, here is the photograph that just last week joined my ongoing, award-winning “Marion under the Moon” series.  As you may have already seen from its caption, its title is “Dream of the Playground Melting into Night.” https://www.lawrenceruss.com

Several friends of mine, seeing it for the first time, have had wildly differing emotional reactions to it.  One said that he thought that it was extremely scary, another said that it made her laugh.  Both speculated about what is going on with or between Marion and the clown.  One male friend said that the image provides “mysteries upon mysteries.”  I’d be fascinated to hear how any of you respond to it.

But my clue doesn’t have to do with those questions.  Here’s what I want you to consider:  This image didn’t come to me in sleep; it wasn’t a dream in the literal sense, and wherever it came from, it continued to change as I tried to plan it and as I worked to execute it.  It didn’t come from the kind of game of “chance” that the self-styled Surrealists played.  And if I say to you that it isn’t a “surrealist” work — and I’ll ask you either to trust me on that or just go along with me for our purpose here – then what is it?  Does the word “surrealism,” as most people use it, imply that there are things that don’t come out of mystery?  Many of my photographs, although often they’re plainly not what critics might call “naturalistic,” are not, in truth, “surrealistic” or “expressionistic” or “impressionistic.”  What are they, then?  And I would say that Edward Weston’s “Pepper No. 30” is not surrealistic or “expressionistic” or “impressionistic,” though it is also not merely what people would call naturalistic.  What is that something else or more that it evokes, that it does?

And what if no one, including its “creator” (meaning me) can say whether or not Marion is casting a spell on the little clown (as one of my friends suggested), or whether Marion and the clown are doing some kind of dance in celebration of what is or in honor of something passing, or whatever else is happening between Marion and the clown, or between any viewer and the image?  Is that “saying” impossible or endless?  How much does it or might it matter?  Does Marion or the clown or the whole scene cast some kind of spell on you?  Do you need to describe or define or name it?  Is there really any end, are there really any banks, to confine the stream that flows from this image of Marion and the clown and the playground and the night — or that flows from any work of art that you love?

Lawrence Russ View All

Was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Obtained a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I was selected as a Writing Fellow in Poetry by the Program faculty. Have published poems, essays and reviews in many magazines, anthologies, reference works, and other publications, including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Parabola, OMNI, and the exhibition catalogue for Art at the Edge of the Law at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Received a law degree from the University of Michigan, and have changed the law and created educational programs in the fields of arts law, historic preservation law, and public construction and contracting law in the State of Connecticut. My photographs have appeared in international, national, regional and state juried exhibitions, and have been selected for awards including Honorable Mentions in the Architecture, Fine Art (series), Nature (series), Open Theme (series), Portrait, and Seascape categories from the international Fine Art Photography Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Fine Art-Other category from the International Photography Awards. Photographs of mine have been selected for exhibition or publications by or in the 2019 International Juried Exhibition of the Center for Photographic Art (Carmel, CA), 2019 International Competition of The Photo Review, the 2019 Open Exhibition of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins CO, F-Stop Magazine, Shadow & Light Magazine, Black Box Gallery in Portland OR, Praxis Gallery in Minneapolis MN, the Darkroom Gallery in VT, PhotoPlace Gallery in VT, A Smith Gallery in TX, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and many other journals and venues. My work has also been selected for inclusion in the Flatfile Program of Artspace New Haven (CT). My photography website is at .

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