Absence and presence: Wijnanda Deroo and Mary Parisi at Rowan

Mary Parisi
Bird With Rubberbands, by Mary Parisi, C print, 30 x 30

To follow up on Roberta’s internationalism theme, I headed to an exhibit of photographs by Dutch photographer Wijnanda Deroo and Californian Mary Parisi. Oh, well, Deroo actually lives in upstate New York. But that outsider eye definitely informs some of what she photographs.

The exhibit, Behind Closed Doors, at Rowan University’s Westby Gallery, is a good pairing of two photographers who shoot interiors devoid of people.

Intimations of plastic slip covers

Wijnanda Deroo
Dining Room, C print, 30 x 40″, by Deroo

Deroo shoots interiors chilled by the lack of people, and sometimes chilled by the people who would be there. So some carpets are covered with plastic, protective runners. And the wallpaper is to make the space look grander than it is. The spaces become anonymous, about the public face of what should be private, squishy and homey. They are photographs of popular ideals–how people think their homes ought to look, with a do-not-touch sign on the front door. Some of the photos are of trailer homes putting on the Ritz–a quality that merges compressed spaces with limitless ambitions.

On the other hand Parisi’s interiors are neither perfect nor empty, even though the people are not visible. Their presence is felt in markings on tables, a bowl filled with rubberbands, signs of use in a slightly soiled bathroom.

Mary Parisi
Bathroom With Lion Hook, by Parisi

So the two photographers have opposite intents–Deroo shoots absence and aspiration and taste; Parisi shoots traces of presence, capturing the spirits of people even when they’re gone.

Wijnanda Deroo
Deroo’s Leisure Village

With those two different purposes, both photographed the marks left on carpet by furniture–Parisi’s rug impression was more human–the base of a chair; Deroo’s rug impression was of chests of drawers. Without the context of series and the choices in framing, I could have believed either one had taken either photograph.

Parisi had started the series by photographing her family home after her parents were gone–so it was quite personal.

Deroo’s outsider eye comes through loud and clear. Her photos become a sort of commentary on flimsy newness, and the American urge to throw away or at least hide what’s been or is being used.

Anyway, if you live near Glassboro, it’s worth your time to visit this gallery and to keep an eye on what gallery Director Lisa Hatchadoorian is showing. I’ve been admiring some of the work showing there from afar, and have been wanting to get there. You can park in the large lot next door to the gallery. If you’re ticketed and visited the gallery, Hatchadoorian said she will handle any tickets you receive. My photos aren’t so great, but if you go to the artists’ web sites, you can find excellent images of their work.


mary parisi, rowan university, wijnanda deroo



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