Common among the indoor and outdoor views that comprise Sasha Arutyunova’s Shelter (2021) is the sense that they reflect a much more tender landscape within. These images were born from the disorientation, longing, and anxiety of a devastating year. But how to make pictures of a feeling? Perhaps it’s not possible, except to look around and try to dance around the grief. They reflect Rebecca Solnit’s sense that the mind is a landscape of its own, and that walking is “one way to traverse it.”
Taken across Brooklyn and in upstate New York, Shelter includes still lifes of sorts, outdoor scenes, and photographs of people that are not quite portraits. While the faces of adults are mostly obscured, it is the children who embody a sense of hope and comfort in their more innocent contemplation. Elsewhere, the shadowed slope of a shoulder, the sturdy curve of thick tree branches, sharp reflections of sunlight, and delicate sprigs of leaves tell stories of a slow reacquaintance with one’s own outer and inner geographies. How to shelter from the storm, when the storm is also within? One way, these photographs suggest, is to fully engage with the overwhelming sublime, to locate awe and beauty even when they are inextricable from fear.
- Paula Kupfer