Dancing around

Orson Welles thought making movies in color was crap. You get pretty color images, sure, but you lose so much potential for expression, nuance, and contrast. The trade-off isn’t worth it.
It’s not hard to understand where he was coming from when you consider Christina Gonzalez-Fernandez’s black-and-white photographic images. This month, the Mudhouse exhibits a modest sampling of the GMU student’s work– an exhibit composed almost entirely of shots of dancers in the GMU dance department. While the work on display isn’t exactly packed with cavernous depth-of-field, epic narrative, or some other Orwellian quality, Gonzalez-Fernandez is, in her own small way, very attuned to the expressive possibility in black-and-white.
These photos are only about the human body.
Gonzalez-Fernandez likes to isolate it, trace its contours, find new shapes in its contortions. In her grainy, fore-grounded scenes, arms wave and torsos overlap. She seems drawn to the lithe and graceful appendages– particular attention is paid to smooth shoulders and long thighs. 
The photographer isn’t about to allow an ounce of personality to seep through and mar her study of anonymous form. The faces of Gonzalez-Fernandez’s subjects are either turned away from the camera, obscured by blur, or cramped into the edge of the frame. Also, the images seem to have been taken in the dance studio, which allows Gonzalez-Fernandez to craft a very narrow depth of focus. 
Her subjects are typically set against a background of blackness or flat gray, which situates her subjects in a rarefied, characterless space. Gonzalez-Fernandez takes full advantage by isolating and accentuating her subject’s limbs in movement and rest. 
The most fascinating details in Gonzalez-Fernandez’s pictures come at the points where the forms in her photos begin to fade into abstraction. A blurry arm flattens and turns to gray, or a head and shoulders, in movement, turn into a ribbon of white. 
In one particularly striking example, a dancer, though standing still, appears about to lunge. Her body is in focus, her limbs clearly defined. Directly in front of her, however, another dancer, dressed in a loose-fitting garment, appears completely out of focus.  Her entire body is a flash of white, a nebulous blur that stretches from the bottom to the top of the frame and almost completely envelopes the other dancer. In this image, the abstract is never far from the most familiar of forms, the human body.

New Works, an exhibit of photography and collage, runs through July 1 at the Mudhouse.  213 Main St. on the Downtown Mall.  984-6833