Journey into Sadness


      "Sight for Sore Eyes"

      recent work by Jeri Coppola.

      Black and white photography

      at Tribes Gallery through March.


"Journey into Sadness" Paul A. Honea, 3/10/00


As the title suggests, this show is in some way, the resolution of a journey. Through her use of several interesting techniques, Jeri Coppola transforms simple, ordinary images into a haunting foreboding landscapes of danger, sadness, and questions.


In a blurred photogragh of an abandoned farm house taken through the drivers side window, centered on the rear view mirror, she first displaces the perspective by shooting from slightly lower and forward, the hands on the steering wheel position. She then uses a grease pencil on the negative to exagerate the shadows in the farm house enhancing its damage, and completely blacks out the auto bodies frame, creating a looking at the shards of a broken mirror effect. These lines converge where the dash should be, in total darkness. The real mirror perhaps reflecting the setting sun, is burned a pure white, suggesting a motion from the light I have passed into the emptyness of the future. I am in the drivers seat. My hands control my journey. Is this where I end up? Normally, the sun over my shoulder illuminates what is before me. I can step or drive forward with confidence. Here, my assumptions shattered, I step back, from the void.


Continuing in the shot through a moving car's window motif, are a series of seductive curves, at first glance a horizon of rolling hills, or an outline of a reclining woman. On closer inspection these lines are guard rails, serpantine white lines of demarcation. The division between safe travel and a decent into a gorge. The grease pencil erased everything else. We see only the boundary of one darkness to another.


On the floor, pasted on black plywood, leaning against the wall, is the image of a young girl in a white dress kneeling in front of an imposing brick house's doorway. Looking down at her from a height similar to that of standing on the stoop, she is exiled, surrounded by a sea of black. The next grouping, is a vertical tryptic, of lakeside scenes; the first being, the prow of a small sail boat; the second, a group of waders; the third, people leaning on the guardrail of a pier. These images are mounted on heavy dark steel, set at an angle from the wall, resting on angle iron, here, the method of presentation detracts from the strengths of the photograghs. The choice threatens to drown, or overpower the sentimental beauty of the images themselves. In the first two, we are finally offered the chance to see something more than darkness beyond the dividing point, but we can not easily cross the guard rail seperating us from the enjoyment of sailing on the lake, or wading in its gentle waters. The last image, takes on a shocking significance as I realize the artist has chosen to violently crop through it at the eye level of the innocent veiwers. Their heads are lopped off.


Am I implicated? Of course. Do I enjoy it? Of couse not.


Here, I must ask a question of the artist echoing my view towards this show as a whole,"Is it that I can't see beyond the lines because it is too painful for me, or is it because you do not want me to see?" Perhaps, I have a limited tolerance for artistry which displays tenative fleeting moments of questioning with such a force. I know a basic threat does exist, if we use images from our collective language, without concern for the other underlying, hidden meanings, which they contain. I just wish she, Jeri Coppola, could be a little friendlier towards me, as I follow her journey.