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Others' Statements

(of Mystical Highway)

The "mystical highway" of Umbreit's current efforts is not only the roads that she drives on through Memphis and the Mississippi Delta... but the mighty river whose devastating flood last year she places in the background of most of these untitled prints, and, finally, the transcendent highway of herself and her imagination.

While many of the scenes Umbreit records are familiar to anyone who grew up in the South or traveled its back roads... the juxtaposition, that is, the double exposure, of this material, presented almost unfailingly in dream-like hues, with that constant presence of prevailing flood waters produces a feeling of insecurity and attenuation. It's as if the pieces were warnings to us that great shifting uncontrollable forces are at play, waiting for our psychological and material defenses to crumble.

Fredric Koeppel
Commercial Appeal, 2012

 

(of A Private Gaze)

The current body of work by Memphian Jeane Umbreit, A Private Gaze, furthers her explorations of the earth and the way humans inhabit it in both a respectful and harmful manner. Umbreit layers and manipulates her photographs with unexpected combinations highlighting places, animals, people and ideas that are ecologically meaningful and pure. These photographs are of a world both modern and ancient, domestic and wild. Within this world of fantasy blended with reality the images give the viewer a private place to read their own stories.

Hamlett Dobbins
Press release, 2010

 

"otherworldly beautiful"

Corey Mesler
Poet, 2010

 

(of Blackbird)

Umbreit has a deep affinity for the South—the rivers, the history, the culture. Blackbird at David Lusk Gallery draws us into Southern locales that evoke feelings and memories...

Waters of the Mississippi appear to wash over and through the face of a beautiful and composed African-American woman in the montage Flood. In another image, Godchild, (the same young woman's) hand presses against the torn and warped screen... She looks directly at us, her godmother, and the world beyond. She appears calm and assured, knowing who she is and where she is going.

In Mercy, [Umbreit] acknowledges nature's power to reclaim by superimposing an image of her home with an image of the Wolf River. In Outside, large vines wind through and around the fence posts of her garden.

And there are blackbirds.

These blackbirds, as in all of Umbreit's subjects, evoke the evolution of the South—its pride and decay, its holding onto old ideas, its pushing through to new ones.

Carol Knowles
Memphis Flyer, Nov. 17, 2005

 

The 11 artists represented in [Southern Exposure] are well-known photographers Sally Mann, William Christenberry, Carrie Mae Weems and William Eggleston, as well as the lesser known yet equally talented Maude Schuyler Clay, Huger Foote, Earlie Hundall, Birney Imes, Tom Rankin, Mike Smith and Jeane Umbreit.

Hundall and Umbreit are the only two photographers to mine an urban setting. Umbreit's exquisite hand-colored prints of Memphis's classical architecture provide a welcome contrast to the Depression-era backdrop of the rural setting.

Jenny Ramirez
Style, Richmond, VA, May 15, 2000, on Southern Exposure exhibition

 

Jeane Umbreit's photographs shot in Memphis depict that city's nod to classical and ancient history. A Grecian-inspired urn decorating the rooftop of the Peabody Hotel or the glass-front urban pyramid reflecting the Mississippi, not the Nile, hearken to the past but remain situated in the present. Umbreit hand-colors these prints with transparent oils to evoke a quiet, almost surreal tenor. Taken out of the normally grimy context of the city, these images evoke a Platonic notion of ideal form and content.

Carla Hanzal
Curator, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia
May 2000, on Southern Exposure exhibition

 

...she has once again created a unique and original vision through careful manipulation of the photographic image.

Ms. Umbreit's skill as a colorist does much to create an atmospheric as well as psychological direction within each composition.

The resulting image has more to do with the subconscious mind than complex structural balance.

An intriguing aspect of Ms. Umbreit's art, in fact, is the tension she often ceates between realism and abstraction.

[about the series Passage] In an odd way, I am reminded of Beat writer Jack Kerouac's description of Robert Frank's book The Americans: "He sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film." Ms. Umbreit has accomplished this and much more with the Norwegian landscape. There are aspects of her life hidden within the complexities of these images. The longer one explores this personal and fascinating vision, the greater the chances are to discover aspects of one's own life, as well.

Dennis Kiel
Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Cincinnati Art Museum
Introduction of Passage, 1997

 

With Umbreit's best images, the sense of the moment, of the right moment to click the shutter, seems to telescope outward toward infinity. There is a feeling of historical inevitability about them which suggests that these photographs have been waiting to happen for a very, very long time.

Singly, Umbreit's best are riveting; taken together, the force of their internal references only increases their great beauty and strength.

L.D. Beghtol
Art Beat, Memphis Flyer, Jan. 25, 1996

 

...new pieces at Bingham Kurts Gallery, taken in Mexico from 1988 to 1991, seem more deliberately inward than previous work. These are strong images, evocative and even a little frightening, presenting mysteries that exclude the viewer.

The light that fills these images is dark, lowering like a palpable presence. There's a sense of taut balance between life and death, between the esthetically sensual and the austerity of failing matter...

The photographs in this series, La Desercion Divina, are beautiful in color and composition, uncompromising in their vision, a little brutal even in their uncanny juxtapositions.

Fredric Koeppel
Playbook, Commercial Appeal, Nov. 22, 1991

 

[Umbreit's] hand-colored photographs present some of the most intriguing and stimulating imagery in the show. These photos manage to display both an atmosphere of arcanum and an engaging sense of wit.

Cory Dugan
NUMBER 3, Winter 1988