Untitled (from the Perth Amboy series)

Rachel Harrison American

Not on view

On the first two Sundays of last October, Harrison staked out an unassuming frame house in Perth Amboy, New Jersey that had recently become the focus of worldwide attention. Thousands of Christians were flocking to see what they believed to be the visage of the Virgin Mary on a second floor window; visitors were occasionally allowed into the house to touch the pane. On the first Sunday, the window was open, and she photographed the faithful as they held Bibles, snapshots of the departed, and other mementos to its surface-praying, weeping, or deep in contemplation. The next week, the window was closed and the artist made pictures of the accumulation of fingerprints on the glass-traces of faith left by the believers. Just as Gauguin painted his Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) as a testament of belief in his medium's spiritual and communicative potential in the encroaching era of mechanical reproduction, Harrison's Perth Amboy is in part an allegory of photography-with the vague face of the Virgin materializing as if on a glass plate negative-as it faces its digital successor.

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