John F.Kennedy, Jr. his wife, and sister-in-law were buried
at sea. President Clinton permitted a US Navy warship to take
the cremated remains to the site where Kennedy’s plane plunged
in to the seas off Martha’s Vineyard. And thus, after five days
of searching, during which a grieving public was besieged with
television and newspaper images of an American icon, the three
were returned to the watery grave that had claimed them.
at sea are unusual, but not uncommon. Once, an ocean grave was
only associated with those who died at sea. But in recent years
the practice has turned commercial. Companies have sprung up
to service the growing desire from celebrities and members of
the general public to have their remain scattered at sea - dust
to dust and water to water.
it about water that so attracts us? Ever since humans crawled
up out of it, salamander-like, to find legs on land, we have
looked back longingly at it’s many mysteries and secret ways.
The vast underwater life of the great oceans are still frontiers
of largely uncharted territory, waiting for discovery and exploration
in myth and reality. The Titanic has been found, but much about
the dark worlds thousands of feet beneath the surface remains
unknown. Humans are 90% made of it, having the same percentage
of salt in our bodies as the ocean has in it’s waters. We cannot
survive without it, we love to swim in it, we love to look at
it, and photographers love to photograph it. The shimmering,
rippling waves on the smallest pool are a delight to the eye.
And who has not paused transfixed, gazing from the shore of
a shining sea, a rushing river, a calm lake, or lounged entranced
in the steaming liquid of a hot bath. Water is everywhere and
we are sustained.
is a city obsessed with water. Anyone not in school is at the
beach. The city with the largest port in the world is a former
desert transformed by the miracle of water brought down from
the northern part of the state. The history of Los Angeles and
water is a murky one, fraught with intrigue and thievery and
disputed claims; but on a blazing hot day in July, lost on the
freeway for over an hour since taking a wrong turn on the 405,
all my companion and I can think about is having a nice cool
glass of it. We’re looking for the Peter Fetterman Gallery in
Bergamot Station, and relieved finally to find the Cloverfield
Exit off of the 10.
“Water, Water, Everywhere” is an eclectic mix of vintage and
contemporary photographs all having something to do with (you
guessed it) water. My personal favorite is Sally Gall’s 20”
x 24” black and white print of “Evidence of Wind.” It features
a big cumulus cloud filled sky over a wide ocean. One is captured
by the big sky and the beautiful water, so it’s a heartbeat
before noticing the dime-sized ship in the left lower corner,
tiny bright white sails billowing in the wind. There is a sense
of a heavenly eye looking down on the earth, man and his little
ships just a tiny speck in the universe. That valiant, microscopic
ship strains all it’s hardy sails to harness the energy of the
world’s winds, and succeeds!
there is Keith Carter’s photograph of the confined world of
two blurry goldfish trapped in the restrictive space of a small
fishbowl. We feel for those fish and their little lives, swimming
in circles in their globe, their home, the only ocean they will
know. They swim and swim in waters that are the circumference
of all their existence. We wonder how long can they survive
in a bowl that is so small yet looms so large in Carter’s photograph.
Are these fish a metaphor for the inhibiting spaces of our human
lives, their bowl like the transparent, confining walls of our
own psyches ?
Leipzig’s photograph, swimmers of another sort leap like dancers
off a tall embankment into the East River in New York. We can’t
see how far they are jumping, but we have the sense that it
is from a very high distance. The boys leap with abandon, one
following the other in perfect order, captured in mid air. Their
lovely boyish bodies are gazelles in flight, but their swim
suits and haircuts, plus the date on the photograph tell us
it is 1948, just after World War II. They appear to be teenagers,
too young to have been soldiers. Maybe their father’s have just
returned from overseas, or maybe some of their fathers have
not returned at all. There are corner candy stores, and the
overhead El, and neighborhoods where everybody is Black or Italian
or Irish or Puerto Rican or Jewish. It’s a different time, and
Leipzig has preserved a consummate moment of boys before they
became men, when they were free to spend a sweltering afternoon
diving in the river. Do boys still swim in the East River?
Given what we now know is in it, I hope not.
Franck’s photograph “Swimming Pool, Var, France, 1976” is of
a young boy watching a sunbathing bikinied woman and a man doing
Yoga exercises. The boy leans on his elbow in a hammock that
casts a shadow with his figure in the middle. It’s a spare modern
image of a graceful, meticulously ordered environment with just
the hint of water to connect it to the theme. We see the edge
of a pool in the upper right hand corner. Another famous poolside
image is by George Hoynigen-Huene, “Divers,Paris, 1930.” Two
perfectly composed bathers, sit at the end of a diving board
and gaze out over the water, their symmetrical bodies and turned
heads forming a classic and much copied image of summer and
with water demonstrated in this show of work by a wide range
of photographers proved a happy summer respite on a sultry
Los Angeles day.