Beneath the Roses.

AuthorShaw, Heather
PositionBook review

Work Title: Beneath the Roses

Work Author(s): Gregory Crewdson, Essay by Russell Banks


175 color illustrations, 16 x 11 , 140 pages, Hardcover $60.00

In the Spotlight

ISBN: 9780810993808

Reviewer: Heather Shaw

There is a woman dressed like a librarian cliche seated on a small bed. Her expression is crushed. Look at her left hand, palm up---it appears almost paralyzed, like it's lost its grip. A laundry basket of meticulously folded pale pink sheets sets in front of her. What's that on the bedsheet? Blood? Whose room is this? Garish satiny underwear scattered on the floor, pots of pink nail polish bunched on the nightstand, framed prints of ballet dancers above the bed---this is a daughter's room, of course. An altar of blue light frames the window and a pile of cartoonish children's books. The door is open. The blue light escapes to the hall and beyond.

The next picture shows a man sitting his socks in a wingback chair in his living room. He looks stunned. Something immense and heavy---or perhaps just something traveling at an enormous speed---has crashed through the roof and ceiling and is now glowing in the basement. It's the same blue glow as that of the TV. On second thought, no, nothing has crashed. The house is a ruin. Plaster has fallen from the walls revealing the lathe like bones. There's dirt and newspapers and cement blocks in heaps. Tile is piled by the closed entrance door. The man in his socks isn't so much shattered by the ruin as flattened by it. There will be no reconstruction. There is no more going forward.

Born in Brooklyn in 1962, Crewdson has been taking still pictures that use complex cinematic techniques for twenty years. Working with set designers and lighting artists on sound stages and on the streets of rural towns in Vermont and Massachusetts, the prints are large (64 x 94), the colors glossy, the themes operatic.

There is dread, but there's yearning too. A certain adolescent miraculousness. And a kind of obsessive feral nostalgia. It's gleaming twilight in the rundown mom and pop neighborhoods, land of uneven lawns and sunken concrete sidewalks, refuse pressed down beneath a season of snow. Trailers are dwarfed by enormous deciduous trees, the rooms are spacious and the surfaces cluttered, the people wear the posture of defeat and estrangement. In an NPR interview, Crewdson said that his pictures must first be beautiful, but that beauty is not enough. He strives to...

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