Ruth Lauer-Manenti’s Remnants at CPW

Hand with Leaf by Ruth Lauer-Manenti.

There’s a brittle beauty in Ruth Lauer-Manenti’s work, which will be shown in the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s solo exhibition gallery alongside its latest Members’ Show, beginning with a 4 p.m.-6 p.m. reception on Saturday, February 8. Lauer-Manenti was chosen as Reviewers’ Pick during the Woodstock Portfolio Reviews of CPW members last year. The result is Ruth Lauer-Maneti’s Remnants.

“I focus on fragments, in this series, to communicate expressions of loss, memory, history and decay in a contemplative manner,” the photographer says of what she’ll be showing. “I am making images that illuminate fragility and survival as a tangible presence, through the use of everyday objects and natural light. Like a poem made up of verses, I view the world in layers, quietly suggesting a story that rekindles an affection for what was, is, or can be.”

Lauer-Manenti lives in a cabin near Palenville. Her life is simple, almost stark, dedicated to art, to the spiritual sense of understanding it can lend.

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In other artist statements, she’s spoken of how her parents’ having been refugees who lost everything moving from Europe left a mark on her, along with “ideas of impermanence.”

“My father was very frugal and always wore shirts with holes in them. With a spirit of acceptance, pointing to the hole he would say, ‘This is life,’” the photographer has written. “Perhaps because of this, I have collected and photographed remnants; pieces that tell of something more.”

An outstretched hand, touchable in its softness, seems to grasp a piece of almost-forlorn cloth. Four nearly identical leaves float atop what could be ice.  A house in Ukraine almost hides behind tall grass, is almost swallowed by the low horizon behind it. A woman, Anna, appears haunted… and each and every print feels itself like a remnant, its half-life in chemicals, before completion, still visible in its final form.

Lauer-Manenti received her first degree from the School of Visual Arts, her second from the Yale School of Art. She’s taught at Dartmouth College, at Yale; won prestigious awards and had key solo exhibitions. She started drawing and painting until a friend opened her eyes and heart to photography.

“Since breaking my neck in a car crash at the age of twenty, I have developed a strong spiritual life and practice for which I have made annual trips to India for the last thirty-five years to study yoga, meditation and Sanskrit and to adapt a way of life simpler and more ritualistic than I had known before,” she has written. “My mother was also an artist. She had a wealth of talent and worked steadily throughout her life, yet her number one role was to take care of her family. Sadly, she left behind a legacy of unwanted, unpublished, unknown work…”

Previous to this latest collection of Remnants, Lauer-Manenti photographed the last week of her mother’s life in a series of beautiful images certain to haunt anyone who’s been there as a loved one’s slipped towards their passing. 

Ruth Lauer-Manenti is an amazing artist, risen — as the best of us do who listen to the spirits inside — from all that’s made her. As well as the CPW Members’ circles, out of which the main gallery show opening, as well, on February 8 has come.

This has the makings of a perfect exhibit, and a grand start for another evocative Center for Photography at Woodstock season.

The reception for the new CPW Member’s Exhibit, featuring work by 102 artists, as well as Ruth Lauer-Manenti: Remnants, will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 8 at CPW, 59 Tinker Street in Woodstock. Call 679-9957 or see cpw.org for further information.

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