In Connie Imboden’s work, the nude is enigma. It secrets, it suggests. But it seldom shares what it means outright. For over thirty-five years, Imboden has studied the indirect language of the body—indirectly. In many images, water reflects the nude’s promethean potential. It stretches, bends, folds, grinds, tears, and transforms. The body, in the end, may wear human skin and show its human teeth, but there’s nothing humane in its primal dramas. The photographs in this feature take us to the opposite extreme. Using scratched and broken glass, Imboden speaks to frailty and the gathering wreckage of what once might have been the body’s courage, desire, or confidence. Imboden likens these reflections to Dickinson’s “slant” telling of the “Truth.” The pairing feels right to me, not only in the slanted tellings, but in the way the windows fail sometimes in Dickinson’s poetry. The flies get inside. And when that happens, as it happens in these photographs, the body cannot “see to see.”
Connie Imboden on the Art of Reflection
Reflections in broken mirrors offers me a different way of seeing the human form, something like Dickinson’s “tell it slant”; the cracks, shards, scratches, and marks distort and illuminate the body through my exploration. It is this relationship, between the shapes of the mirrors and the forms of the body, that is the basis of my art.
One shard suggests a helmet, another a broken chest armor, and still others seem to render his arms useless. I see in him a ghost of a knight, ruined through battle, but still diligent in his duty.
A curved shard reveals just a slice of the face, but enough to match the mood implied by his hunched back and unsettled hands. Is it depression? Or hopelessness? Or something else?
A large triangular shard cuts into the frail, broken figure, making him appear thin and brittle. This shard, ending in a cracked point in his leg, implies fragility, uncertainty, pathos, and even hopelessness.
I could never conjure these images in my mind, but through a visual exploration, my eyes lead me, my camera, in an intuitive process that takes me to the edge of what I know and, more interestingly, to the edge of what I don’t know. As I leave thoughts, feelings and ideas behind, these creatures emerge.
It is on this intuitive path, this slant, that Dickinson’s, and my own truth, dazzles gradually.
To see more of Connie Imboden’s incredible work, go to connieimboden.com. And check out her excellent book, Reflections: 25 Years of Photography, published by Insight Editions.