A LITTLE NIGHT MAGIC
Sean Perry’s Fairgrounds live in that mystical time just between dusk and dark. The photographs glow from within—a sense of the surreal all pervasive. These are dream images reminiscent of film noir. Devoid of sound, yet rich with resonance—tensions of melancholy and joy strangely mixed within them. The faceless characters, often just bodiless limbs, are all arms and legs akimbo and topsy-turvy.
In contrast, the fairground pictures of my youth were blinding bright daylight and vivid, raucous color. Rides were filled with smiling, happy (or sometimes frightened) faces. Midways were crowded and noisy—full of food and drink. Lights were radiant and gaudy. Laughter and screams filled the air. There was motion everywhere.
Not here. Choosing to work in black and white and printing beautifully toned photographs, Perry has changed the timbre, challenged the norm. Often shooting slightly out of focus, he toys with our preconceptions and forces us to sharpen the image in our minds—touching on our memories to “make them right.” Strange angles and perspectives lure us into new ways of looking at and thinking about things we thought we knew well. Slightly longer exposures allow time to produce motion, leaving quiet poetry juxtaposed against a jarring cacophony. His is a world inhabited by fantastical creatures, filled with ubiquitous fluttering flags. A world made of backlit silhouettes. It is at once both foreign and familiar. A truly crazy dance.
When I first saw the images, I convinced myself they were taken at one place at one time; the sky and the land felt the same. And then I asked Sean if I was right. Of course I was not. The images were made over four years in multiple locations. Yet I think the overall effect gives passage to a shared experience of being in a specific place at a specific time. I find that the images linger in the mind; remain in the memory. There is haunting magic here.
Clint Willour | Curator
Galveston Arts Center