Solace in the Details
About the Show
By focusing on the intimate details of large spaces, photographer Jean Morrison Phillips brings the viewer into her world of quiet observations. Photographs from three of her recent series, I’m Sorry You Couldn’t Stay, Mughal Stonework, and Tidal Landscapes, will be on display at the Faulkner East Gallery at the Santa Barbara Central Library for the month of May.
These bodies of work were made during a period of significant personal challenges for the artist, including a long struggle with infertility, and, fortunately, the transition into parenthood. Creating these images provided a refuge and a chance to find beauty in the world during a difficult time.
The photographs in the series I’m Sorry You Couldn’t Stay were made at the Hase Dera Temple in Kamakura, Japan. This temple features a shrine to Jizo, the protector of lost and unborn children in Japanese Buddhism, with thousands of small statues of him placed by parents mourning a miscarriage or stillbirth.
“Unexpectedly, I found myself strongly drawn to this tradition,” notes Phillips. “I had struggled to find adequate ways to talk about and work through the experience of miscarriage and infertility within my own culture. One of the most difficult aspects of this process was the isolation and loneliness I felt. Spending time in this shrine, I could see that I was far from alone.”
The title of the series refers to the belief that souls flow out of and back into water through the cycle of birth and death, and that Jizo will help those who are not born to find another path into being.
Mughal Stonework offers a unique perspective on iconic monuments from the Mughal Empire in Northern India, including the Taj Mahal. These buildings are almost always pictured from a distance, in overview. Phillips’ images instead show how they continue to expand and flower as the viewer comes closer and closer to the stone, revealing fractal-like layers of detail.
Tidal Landscapes is an ongoing series, made closer to home in the tide pools at the Coal Oil Point Reserve. When winter’s low tides expose great expanses of rock on this beach, countless tiny landscapes reveal themselves in the weathered stone. This work was shown at the Faulkner East Gallery, located in the Santa Barbara Central Library from May 1 through May 31, 2019 and at the State Gallery in Santa Barbara in March 2020.