There is an undeniable thrill that comes from observing peoples private lives or witnessing something intended to stay concealed. The word “voyeur” evokes trespassing into others’ hidden worlds and seeing their secrets. How many of us have lingered too long by a half-open bedroom door or furtively listened in on a confidential conversation? Sometimes, these glimpses into others’ lives are exhilarating, but other times, they leave us feeling uneasy, wishing we could “unsee” what we saw.
In a way, all artists are voyeurs. They have a unique ability to observe the world around them and create windows into strangers’ experiences that might otherwise go unnoticed. These insights also provide a singular perspective into the artists’ own private experiences.
Voyeur curator Dina Brodsky has assembled a series of artworks that fill viewers with a sense of wonder and transgression, oscillating between the tender and the unnerving. Ms. Brodsky’s paintings deliver a peek into abandoned rooms, leaving viewers wondering about the former occupants’ lives based on what is left behind.
The artists’ works range in timbre from unscripted moments of gentle privacy to images that feel like intrusions. Bonnie DeWitt’s drawings appear innocent and sweet at first glance, but portray an underlying sense of mystery and voyeurism. Cory Morgenstein’s work displays a face on a mirror, frozen in an expression that is clearly and uncomfortably private; the discomfort is amplified because the viewer’s ability to see their reflection in the image’s mirror background, as an interloper into the scene.
Other artists take objects and settings that are typically hidden and showcase them boldly. Judith Klausner transforms prescription bottles, which are often concealed and imbued with shame, into glittering showpieces for public exhibition. Mitra Walter’s works demonstrate different levels of comfort by partially clothed women in the spotlight.
Diana Corvelle’s lover’s eye lockets harken back to the Victorian era, when sweethearts would exchange keepsakes that purposely obscured the deep sentiment they contained by depicting only part of a beloved’s likeness. Michelle Doll’s paintings openly exhibit highly intimate interactions between lovers. Maria Kreyn’s glowing artworks literally illuminate a moment of introspection from within.
Some painters capture the fluidity of how privacy is perceived. Amber Lia-Kloppel’s works reveal subjects that have the comfortable, relaxed appearance of someone who is alone, even though they are being watched. The figures in Joshua Henderson’s paintings show the intersection between uncertainty and intimacy, and a sense of happy quietude in the midst of darkness. Luis Borrero portrays a spontaneous, unscripted movement of the body in a relaxed, confidential setting not intended for others’ eyes.
Others capture the voyeurism of trespassing into hidden spaces. Tun Myaing provides a glimpse into the rarely seen underbelly of large, inhabited structures; a venture into labyrinths of out-of-use equipment that grows increasingly dilapidated with time. And James Adelman offers a peek into accidental, partially illuminated scenes resulting from accidental lighting, including a fraction of a dark bedroom illuminated by a fallen flashlight.
For artists, it is a privilege to observe a single moment closely and intently, turning it into a tableau that transcends the quotidian. Voyeur allows the viewer an opportunity to experience those moments and provides a rare chance to observe unabashedly.