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HIDDEN AGENDAS and UNUTTERABLE
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.