Art

Galleries | Cate McQuaid

Sandi Haber Fifield’s photographs come with strings attached

“Untitled (LG17 #112)” by Sandi Haber Fifield, part of her “Lineations” exhibit.
“Untitled (LG17 #112)” by Sandi Haber Fifield, part of her “Lineations” exhibit.

Sandi Haber Fifield pulls lines from her photographs as if they were loose strings in a tapestry and extends them onto drawings on vellum. Think of it: A thread goes rogue, forsaking story and illusionistic space for a linear world that might lead to calligraphy, text, cartoons, or snarls and snags — quite a contrast to the lush sham of reality that is a photograph.

In her show at Robert Klein Gallery @ Ars Libri, there’s a chasm between, and we cross it with her.

“Untitled (LG17 #112)” sets up the game. The photo is an extraordinary close-up of white and blue painted plywood, the terrain of its surface chipped and worn. Scratches loop and drift. One flies onto the vellum, scoops upward toward easy squiggles of aqua and blue, like ribbons on kite string, then delicately twists downward.

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The seductively tactile look of the wood gives way to the vellum, translucent as fog, scratched over in graphite. The thread between them is a simple suspension bridge between all the photograph gives us, and all we read into the calligraphic line.

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Still, photographs are not reality. Haber Fifield manipulates her photos, just as she does her drawings. In some works, she layers them, doubling and reorienting an image. In some, she amps up the color. She reshapes space in “Untitled (LF16 #101).” Pink flowers crawl along a utility pole, which the artist sets at a near horizontal. Thorny branches and cables reach up and join at a right angle those in a second photo just above. That line then crosses onto the vellum, where the artist completes a ragged square.

Lines in the photo make a circuit with the drawing — it might cycle from feeling (in the splendor of the photos) to thought (in the tangles of the drawings), and back. Illusionistic space flips over itself, then dovetails with linear reality in an unexpected but lyrical call and response. Haber Fifield has us swinging and creaking on a rope bridge between, captivated.

SANDI HABER FIFIELD: LINEATIONS

At Robert Klein Gallery @ Ars Libri, 500 Harrison Ave., through Aug. 23. 617-267-7997, www.robertkleingallery.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.