De Loach: Tragedy Conveyed By Color and Light

by Louise Sheldon
The H. Lewis Gallery, named for an ’80s Rock ’n Roll star, is an art venue to keep an eye on.
       The H. Lewis Gallery in Bolton Hill presented in May a show of photographs by Gabriel De Loach, who has just graduated from the Maryland Institute, College of Art. The show bore an unusual title from the Book of Revelations: “For Entry into the New Kingdom—and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,” which is important, as it was the only text used in the show and thus the only clue to the meaning of the photographs.

       Low-keyed, overtly non-committal, but highly charged with emotional content, these are photographs in color of a family photographed in and around their home in open Appalachian country in northern New Jersey. It is apparent that tragedy has somehow touched the lives of the three family members who appear in the pictures.

       In the most startling of the photographs the objects—the skinned body of a deer hanging beside a man (the photographer’s father) who turns from the blood-smeared carcass with a stricken look—glow orange-red against black. Deftly handled color plays an equally important role in the depiction of a sleeping woman (the artist’s mother), her slightly bluffed profile sensuously ensconced in the lush yellow of sheets and blanket. Beautiful and fragile, she appears both vulnerable and inaccessible.

       In other photographs color plays a lesser role, but mystery, sadness and regret are always present. The mother stands in a white fur coat alone, looking away over a snowy landscape. The use of white on white emphasizes the scene’s sense of barrenness, loneliness and bereavement. In another shot a brilliant horizontal path of light illuminates the figures of father and son moving around piles of wood toward the forest in the blackness of night.

       Eventually one realizes that each photograph tells a story of tragedy on some level, whether the impending death of the family dog or the demise of a deer the photographer has shot; in the former we see the bleak, snow-swept out-of-doors through a window and in the latter the artist stands beside the deer carcass with a horror-struck look on his pale face. In these concrete events of the present we read the recurring aftermath of tragedies of the past.

       The most eloquent work is a portrait of the artist’s father. Light rakes partially over his face to highlight the flakes of snow on his moustache and collar. His eyes pressed tightly shut, the subject’s facial expression seems to imply that he is struggling with all his might to suppress anguishing thoughts that surge upward in his consciousness.

       The artist states that these photographs represent retribution, a sense of giving back to his family and thankfulness that they have survived together.

       Technically excellent, these intensely personal photographs show a fine understanding of the uses of color and light to express unarticulated emotions. The story of the artist’s family, however, may play a too-prominent role in their deciphering to be of real interest to viewers unrelated to the artist by blood or friendship. But De Loach has explored his theme with great sensitivity, clarity and a sense of urgency.

       The H. Lewis Gallery, named for an ’80s Rock ’n Roll star, is a venue to keep an eye on. This interesting, independent venture has been undertaken by students and graduates of the Maryland Institute who pay rent with sales of art in various media and the proceeds from evening programs of folk music and “alternative” country music correlated to the shows.

       During the month of June, the H. Lewis Gallery will present a show of photographs entitled “itinerant,” including works by Washington artists Cynthia Connolly, Lely Constantinople and Antonia Tricarico. The show has been recently seen in Rome, Italy.

       The gallery, which is open Wednesday through Sunday 11:30am–4:00pm, is situated at 1500 Bolton Street (telephone: 410-462-4515). Their activities can be traced online at and


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This story was published on May 30, 2001.