New York

Barbara Ess

Barbara Ess’ dreamlike photographic images—made with the most primitive of cameras (a pinhole camera), then enlarged and printed in delicate monochromes—are immediately compelling. We see a white dove’s rosy wing, its feathers opened like a hand, diaphanous folds of cloth, and a patch of floral carpet illumined in green, soft as an exhalation. These images possess a clairvoyant, peripheral-visionary intelligence; some are as indelible as those from one’s own dreams.

The word “duvetyn” (the name of a soft fabric with a twill weave used in downquilts) seems to serve as a tutelary daimon for the show. Following the title is a condensed etymology of the Indo-European root of duvetyn, “dheu.” This root is the base of a wide variety of derivatives, beginning with the meaning “to rise in a cloud” as dust or vapor, and including types of breath (vaporous, sometimes visible) and spirit. Other points

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