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Exhibition features photography of poet Dickinson's bedroom

January 20, 2015 - Robbie Goodrich
"Window-pane, Second West Window" is among the photographs featured in the exhibition "Billie Mandle: Circumference" showing through March 13 in Griffith Gallery on the SFA campus.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - "Billie Mandle: Circumference," showing Jan. 27 through March 13 in Griffith Gallery on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus, is an exhibition featuring the artist's most recent project - photographs of American poet Emily Dickinson's bedroom.

For the past year, photographer Mandle, using a large format camera and available light, has photographed Dickinson's bedroom, focusing primarily on the southwest corner into which her desk faced. The photographic project, which Mandle calls "Circumference," explores the light as it changes throughout the day and across the seasons.

"The surface of the walls have changed since Dickinson lived there, but the quality of light is the same that infused her poetry," Mandle writes of her project. "As I photograph this potent corner, focusing on both the physical structure of the walls and the ephemeral space in between, I search for what might be learned about imagination, attention and observation."

Mandle explains that the word "circumference" is often used by Dickinson to "suggest the tangible world that poetry could describe but not penetrate."

"My work explores surfaces - questioning the ways that they embed meaning, conceal histories and reflect the limitations of knowing," she said. "Beginning with the premise that the world withholds as much as it reveals, I look at the intersection of people, their environments and their beliefs, focusing on the convergence of place and self. I read the objects we touch and the materials that surround us as a map to an interior landscape. Photographs are all surface; for me, one of the challenges of photography is in trying to find a way to convey the depth of reality through a medium that only describes the surface of the world."

Mandle received a Bachelor of Art in English and biology from Williams College and an Master of Fine Art in photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She is the recipient of a Whiting Fellowship, a Kahn Institute Fellowship, an Artist Fellowship in Photography from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and an Individual Artist Grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council. Photographs from her series "Reconciliation" were selected for the 25th Hyères Photography Festival in France. Her work has also been nominated for the Prix Pictet and the Paul Huf award. She is an assistant professor of photography at Hampshire College and lives in Massachusetts.

Mandle will give an artist talk at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, in the Art Building on the SFA campus. An exhibition/artist reception will immediately follow in Griffith Gallery in the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive.

All SFA School of Art exhibitions, gallery talks and receptions are free. For more information, call (936) 468-1131.