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.
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.