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