Artist Diana Kingsley uses a Hasselblad camera to make her images; she's as picky and exacting as a high-paid product photographer, but instead of putting all that energy and care into the service of crass commercialism, she takes the little slippages that drive art directors crazy and turns them into content. Her photos have that creamy, so-seamless-as-to-be-slightly-otherworldly look common to high-end retail catalogs (and Robert Mapplethorpe), but there's usually something wrong with them. To her credit, the "errors" (and they're not just photography errors, but screw-ups suggesting a whole range of human dysfunctions) don't leap out at you like Mad magazine gags. They're subtle, so subtle that you sometimes don't even see them.

In Net, 1997, a woman in tennis whites has collapsed face-down on the court, ball resting near her head. She's wearing a red wig, and in a detail that's barely visible in the photo (and completely invisible online), the hair is parted to reveal a kind of netting--a super-tacky echo of the unseen tennis net and racket. In Sensitive Son, 1997, the "error" is more obvious: a cute kid in a knit cap who might or might not be a sportswear model posing for the perfect catalog shot sheds an unfortunate (time-, film-, and money-wasting) bead of sweat. The offending fluid is shaped like a teardrop, suggesting a subliminal, Oedipal message to a pushy off-camera stage mom.

Ultimately, the "errors" occur within a much larger comedy of visual manners. In Diane, 2001 (below), a female conventioneer has a name tag with ink smeared so badly it slides onto the fabric of her top. This is a joke at her expense, but then she's not really a person in the photograph, just a superlative pair. One of the more amusing features of the picture is the water bottle in her hand--a sexual pun, of course, given its location in the picture, but also a sly comment on contemporary mores. Everyone seems to be carrying around quarts of Evian and Poland Spring these days: at what point did they not become ridiculous?

Diana Kingsley, Diane, 2001, lambda print, 30" X 30"

Kingsley's website

- tom moody 1-18-2002 1:46 am

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