Perceived Realities, the MFA Thesis show at Columbia College, brings together the wide-ranging work of Columbia’s MFA photography students: Phaedra Call, Ilana Cheyfitz, Allison Clarke, Juan Giraldo, Yeinier Gonzalez, Elaine Catherine Miller, and Orlenajean Vieira. With only seven artists occupying this roomy gallery, the work has room to breathe and is installed seamlessly in the space, except for a sonic dissonance problem where a few of the pieces with sound conflict with each other (an issue for many gallery spaces, usually unavoidable).
Amongst the expected photographic fare (large-format photographs, videos, collages and artists books), Elaine Catherine Miller’s installation Waiting (for the Sun to Set), 2015 stands apart. Miller’s piece is an room within a room; a corner space built out to mimic the sterile floors, walls, and furniture of a government office or a doctor’s waiting area. A faceless female mannequin in a conservative woman’s suit sits, legs crossed, in a chair, holding an apple, while a generic sunset video plays in a loop on a monitor. The palette of light pink, dark pink, black and gray, along with the fake sunset and an artificial potted palm gives the work, at its surface, a tumblr-esque aesthetic, but at a deeper level the installation calls to mind the worst moments of waiting in our lives, perhaps for results of a medical test, or for a loved one to come out of surgery. The video plays on and on, even when no one is around to watch, projecting a false calm with an undercurrent of desperation.