Deanna Maganias

In the opening passage of William Faulkner’s Light in August, Lena Grove, unwed and pregnant, is in search of the father of her unborn child. Throughout her wanderings she keeps imagining she has already reached her destination. Lena’s mental state, her belief that she is already there without actually having to arrive, seems to deny the reality of her physical being. All that counts is her inner world.

Some of the works in DeAnna Maganias’s first solo show, which consisted of several installations, ingeniously devised, involving small, impeccably handcrafted objects, explored analogous states of nonbeing and transcendence. These were works in which a hovering invisible human presence seemed to permeate the entire space. In others the artist focused on situations related to vulnerability in the face of disaster.

In Then it will be as if I were already in the air, 1999–2001, Maganias associates the passage from Faulkner with her own subjective experience immediately preceding an airline flight. While flying is a common, indeed nearly universal experience in our increasingly mobile world, it is still often laden with anxiety and alienation. Maganias focuses on the first stage of air travel, which takes place in that peculiar no-man’s-land, the departure lounge. This space—in which travelers may feel trapped before the flight—is loaded with the energy of their apprehension, poised as they are for physical displacement. For Maganias it is a state of transcendence like the one Faulkner's Lena experiences, during which the sense of both physical self and locus is blurred if not lost altogether. Cool, empty, and pristine, with the small, flawlessly imitated waiting-room chairs set in perfectly regimented rows, Then it will be. . . is charged with a tension that seems to fill the work with a mute human presence. Observing from above—an angle enforced by the reduced scale of the objects—the viewer gets a vague feeling of detachment, even loss.

July 2000 appears to be a section of a high-rise office building on fire at night. The work is set at eye level, in a comer at the far end of a dark room. Lights, like tongues of fire, glow within it. Fragile and dramatic, it is a glaring reminder of natural catastrophes and terrible accidents, not to mention cold-blooded acts like those of September 11. The craftsmanly precision of this installation recalls the manicured habitats of middle-class society, with their sought-after feeling of security. But, exposed as we are to calamities of all kinds, this sense of security is as false as it is artificial.

Catherine Cafopoulos