Minor Goddesses by Carly Ries
by Carly Ries
Curated by Frances Dorenbaum
A swallowtail butterfly briefly hovers above the yellow florets of a pink zinnia and takes a drink of sweet nectar. The patterned wings of the insect form a structure of protection and an element of its beauty. Its delicate figure, at times, may distract from the essential role the butterfly has in providing nourishment and care to neighboring flora. Its efforts unnoticed while its beauty is hailed.
Carly Ries’s new series Minor Goddesses centralizes characters in nature often left brushing the periphery of action. The work’s title makes reference to the nymphs of Greek mythology, female personas associated with rivers, forests, and bodies of water. These “minor goddesses” were often portrayed as custodians of a natural environment explored by male figures, the nymphs’ beauty and service being their primary narrative role. Ries, instead, highlights women and other small creatures independently of such a counterpart and reconsiders the daily rituals of ordinary women and insects as worthy of sustained attention.
Rather than revealing the whole body, her pictures show only fragments of women. She guides viewers to experience the senses piqued in a specific area: skin simmers in the sun and becomes hot to the touch. Beads of sweat begin to form and trickle down the side of the ribcage. Refuge lies in the blue lake ahead, bobbing invitingly. One can imagine the cooling effect of wet hair after diving in. Arm hairs rising in a breeze. Refreshed, the body acclimatizes, and even revels in the sultriness of the day. The wet and the dry, the hot and the cool, and the light and the dark work to create a rhythm in awakening the senses of the viewer. In depicting only details, her work moves beyond the gaze, instead to the corporeal.
The images of softly flowing water, a blooming lily, and an intricate spider web embedded in the sequence act as metaphors for the energy and movement in the women’s inner worlds. The sequence blooms and then closes again towards the end as a woman wields a bow and arrow directed at a target out of frame, and an empty vase forms a lens obscuring the face of a nude woman, confronting the camera. A dragonfly alights on a fallen log covered in markings made by bark beetles. There is only so much one can glean from these fleeting moments of embodiment. As the sun sparkles on the water, the glare both brightens and obscures the lush nuances of the everyday.
Archival pigment prints, each is an edition of 6 with 2 artist proofs and available in multiple sizes.
All work 2020