FotoFest Exhibitions

Judy Haberl

Selected By: Rhonda Wilson, Creative Director, Rhubarb-Rhubarb,
 Birmingham, United Kingdom



I have always had respect for artists whose work fascinates me: it’s a rare occurrence and one that I savor. The fascination with Judy Haberl is that although she is a sculptor, she uses photography to do more than simply document her creations. The images are perhaps best described as organic Polaroids of impermanent sculptures that melt even as she photographs them. Jewels of all kinds, flowers, shapes of baby heads, fur, and hair were all frozen in ice—some in vase shapes, others as what appeared to be portraits of the contents of ponds. Once removed from the freezer, the ice sculptures are rushed to a studio in Brooklyn to be photographed using a large Polaroid camera—where of course they immediately begin to dissolve under the hot studio lights. The sometimes fragmented surface of the ice makes the prints even more interesting before you know the ice story. Sometimes you think you are looking at prints made at the end of the 1800’s.

Judy Haberl has a way of enticing the viewer to look— her titles reflect well the seductive nature of her work. The pieces in the series Unutterable are bursting bags and purses made of thin rubber, containing treasures of different types. Highly sensual, even sexy, they seem about to explode with the potency of their fullness. Glistening vases can be examined at close proximity through the prints, and the contents marveled at, remembering always that photography is doing its job of evidencing something that may no longer exist— in this case the whole idea behind the images.

The story of the production processes involved appealed to my lust for the narrative behind the images. Judy Haberl was the first person I saw at FotoFest’s 2008 portfolio review, and she remains one of the most memorable, even though the standard was high and there were some remarkable portfolios with some great stories. Her sheer energy and passion is reflected in this body of work. It attracted me because of the mixture of mediums she uses throughout the process and the sheer vastness of the ideas involved in the production and destruction of the art. I also appreciate looking at images of objects which I knew had turned into glistening rivers of water on the studio floor, while ultimately making fine art C-prints or large Polaroids. Judy Haberl’s work is essentially a documentary intervention in the disappearance of ephemeral sculptures.

- Rhonda Wilson


Judy Haberl was born in Denver and now lives in Newtonville, Massachusetts. She is a professor of sculpture at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston. In her first body of photographic work, Freeze, 1998, she created images of cast ice sculptures using a 20” x 24” Polaroid camera. She continued the work using the “Moby C” camera, Edwin Land’s unique room-size showpiece in New York. For three years she drove freezer trucks filled with ice sculptures to the camera’s location in lower Manhattan and used it to slowly create a portfolio of enormous 40” x 90” Polaroids for the series Iced Fictions. The large format Polaroids were first exhibited at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 2002. She continues to make work using a medium format (4” x 5”) camera, producing digital and C-prints. Haberl’s photographic works are often accompanied by sculptures or installations of a related nature. She is represented by Kayafas Gallery, Boston.