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Shining Bright 

A collection of young photographers dazzle at The Cleveland Print Room

The Cleveland Print Room's Spotlight exhibition showcases images from young fine art photographers attending or recently graduated from area colleges. As a group show, most contributors only have between one and three works. However, several solitary works command more attention and interest than many larger bodies of work by the artists' young peers.

Jamee Crusan's "Faux Fill: The Great American Scheme" presents a woman in heels, stockings, a red evening dress, and piles of curls. She sits alone in an apartment, holding a book in her right hand. Her left arm is tied off at the bicep as an IV bag with a Facebook logo drips a deep blue fluid into her arm. A baggie of white powder, also marked with Zuckerberg's logo, sits on the stand to her right. Her gaze levels at the audience with a steady aggression; she dares us to level judgment against her.

Crusan's anti-heroine has adapted to live in a society which demands feminine beauty be made-up and groomed even for a night in. Moreover, patriarchy-enforced primping becomes a 24-hour task now that we constantly carry image-management software on our persons. The anti-heroine has mastered the lifestyle of perpetual glam and social media, but may yet be destroyed by it. She is exhausted, alone, and addicted, with no lifelines in sight.  

Michelle Ward similarly combines technical proficiency with an evocative, story-like tableaux, though her narrative's direction and symbolism is not as clear. The atmosphere of her "In this town, Murder is a Form of Entertainment" is noir, saturated in eveningwear, night, and hidden violence. But, adding another layer of intrigue, darkness has come to the suburbs. A woman lies with the open-eyed blankness of death on a kitchen floor. The victim's costume, a silky blue dress and string of pearls, invoke idealized mid-century domesticity. No wounds or splashes of poison hint at her murder; only her sightless gaze, unnatural pose, and eerie lighting announce her demise.

Her body is lit unevenly in faint silver. Some of the folds of her dress are soaked in black, while the goose bumps on her pale calves stand exposed in their whiteness. Above, dim yellow lights illuminate the kitchen walls just below the ceiling; they fall on decorative plates, painted with yellow chicks and children on a seesaw. (The reaper, it appears, does not fear kitsch.) Ward's filling of a more-or-less vertical space with two different levels and colors of light is impressive, and contributes to the death scene's sense of discord.

In Troy Hoffman's "Self-Portrait", the subject stares ahead through lensless glasses. His background is blank white, and he wears a black, turquoise, and red sweater. The image is plastered onto drywall, like a street advertisement.

Immediately to the portrait's left, almost two dozen of Hoffman's friends are presented in the same pose and same clothes. They form a grid of insufficiently differentiated humans. Unlike Warhol's mechanically reproduced headshots, there is no sense of admiration for the subject, not even of a half-campy variety.

Besides such "figurative" work, the show also contains strong "abstract" photographs of fluids, and "illustrative" images of dioramas like 3D storybooks. Gen. Y puts a good foot forward here.

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