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Shellburne Thurber

Participant Inc.

As practices, art and psychoanalysis have a few things in common. Both build from and depend on histories (often hidden); both understand images to be powerful and full of elusive meaning. Psychoanalysis, of course, is also a methodology for reading art (for a piquant early example, see Freud’s 1910 psychobiography of Leonardo da Vinci). When, in 1998, Boston-based artist Shellburne Thurber began her ongoing series of photographs of psychoanalysts’ unoccupied offices (first in Buenos Aires and then in Boston), she must have quickly realized she’d struck gold. While superficially similar to, say, Thomas Struth’s or Candida Höfer’s quiet interiors, Thurber’s images, unlike the Germans’ visions of restraint, are as heavily loaded as a good foundational incest myth.

These are spaces filled with the ghosts of ghosts, where private histories and narratives unfold; psychic spaces, although it’s

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