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Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Bare Noir of Everyday

The silent images of Jessica Z. Schafer

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The “Z” in Jessica Z. Schafer’s name surely must stand for “Zowie!” She’s a young photographer enamored with classic film. She lives Downtown and recently rented a studio (as a Plaid Tuba Productions affiliate) in the Third Ward’s Marshall Building—good news for those who want the best of our hometown talent to stick around.

Through April 6, view her inkjet digital print series, “Cinephile,” at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts—not in the main gallery, but in a far more effective space in the hallway, on the north wall. It’s a bit like going to the movies in an intimate theater, but without the popcorn.

Her black-and-white snippets of time—hung side by side with almost military precision, or if you will, the precise tick-tock of Time’s clock—are her way of recording what many of us see every day in Milwaukee. For example, Juneau Park in the winter, the Juneau of winter quiet, so quiet that the benches are empty, though perhaps she means to suggest that people have just left or are about to enter the frame. In any event, none of the 3-by-8-inch images are populated with figures, not even one.

The artist’s sense of place stars in “Cinephile.” Stripped-down and wearing no fussy makeup or flashy distractions, her places are bare film noir, rather than big screen Cinerama. Her world is mystery, romance and quite possibly murder. You’d think that images so tightly composed would leave little to imagine, but like a great night at the movies (perhaps a flick with rain-slicked streets and Parisian sewers), we are encouraged to fill in the action lurking among the shafts of vertical and horizontal elements. The images are unsettling in that, just as in life, nothing is really settled and tied up neatly when the end credits roll.

Schafer is a genuine talent in a world swamped with image overload. Involve yourself.
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