“Some say my Dad’s death was the spark that ignited my depression, but this feeling has been brewing for a while,” says Heather Evans Smith, a photographer based in North Carolina. Memory, loss and family are central to her latest series, which is filled with visual metaphors surrounding the colour blue. The pigment is known for having a rich visual history – from evoking a sense of royal or religious devotion, to Yves Klein’s IKB, a hue patented in the 20th century. For Evans Smith, it’s deeply personal.
“I started to notice a sadness creep in a few years into my 40s,” the artist continues. “I searched ‘depression in women’ and stumbled across articles stating that women are the most depressed at age 44. I was – at that very moment – 44 years of age.” The colour blue has, for hundreds of years, been associated with melancholy and sadness. “These images evoke this period in my life and how it affects those around me,” Evans Smith says. “I am stripping down, taking stock, and finding a new place amongst the loss.”
The images reflect what the artist describes as a “whimsical imagination.” VHS tapes cover faces and feet dance on top of paintings. Hydrangea and periwinkle flowers appear throughout. Yet there’s a stifling sense of unease to the compositions. Subjects become encased in fishbowls; condensation runs down the glass. Elsewhere, small blue pills and butterfly wings cascade from dustpans. Sinks overflow with broken crockery. In each carefully crafted still life, Evans Smith treads the line between play and danger.
Blue is on show at Cassilhaus until 14 August. A monograph of the work will be available late summer 2022.
All images courtesy Heather Evans Smith.
3. This Too Shall Pass