In My Solitude: New Photographs by Paul Cary Goldberg
Venturing through the market, the greens of the produce fold into the golden glow of the baker’s fresh display. The abundance of colors nourish and guide the shopper, capturing their gaze if only for a moment. Each vegetable is performing and magnifying its luminosity in hopes the passerby will find them irresistible. Beyond the leafy mist there is a vibrant energy exuding from the fruit stand. Voluptuous purple grapes create a canopy over the deep garnet of the cherries and the spectrum of apples debuting their richest hues of the season. The barrels of nuts and coffee beans invite the onlooker to submerge their hands into the available bounty—offering a tactile conversation as they glide closer to the magnificent display
Despite the competition, the pomegranates, pears, and walnuts know that when Paul Cary Goldberg walks by, they will soon be traveling with him. They have become integral to the artist’s process and act as team players in his photographs, becoming more than just fruits on display and taking on new identity as characters in his metaphorical journey. As this series progresses, we become familiar with the lifetimes of the objects and recognize his choices of subjects as they transform in the artist’s mind and practice.
Goldberg’s work is fueled by the emotion of the viewer. Each element, whether fruit, bread, or cracked shell, contributes to the conversation within the frame. Slates of stone and wooden tabletops are the stage for the produce to perform and the placement of the fruit inspires dialogue. His reoccurring subjects have a masked delicacy about them. The pomegranate wears armor but the innards of this fruit are hidden and vulnerable. Much like the walnut who wears his personal helmet only to expose his organ-like innards, laden with cracks and breakable crevices that uncover his ability to be destroyed. Once out of their shells, the treasured edibles are exposed to our air and begin their witnessed existence. The medium of photography has always encouraged a literal understanding of objects within the image, but Goldberg’s photographs turn the responsibility over to the observer to formulate the connectivity
The isolated pear of Still Life with Wooden Bowl and Pear (PCG163) can take on two personas when approached, that of a diva or that of an outcast. Glowing from the slice of daylight on its skin, the lonesome green pear is found either engulfed by the darkness, acknowledging the light as its savior, or it takes on the personality of a warrior, a subject in the spotlight accepting deserved accolades. Dependent on the emotional state the viewer carries, the subjects have the ability to play different roles
Still Life with Wooden Bowl and Pear (PCG163)
In Still Life with Red Onion, Walnut, and Bread (PCG169), the delicate skin of the onion flares and appears as if in motion, a crimson gown twirling on the shore of a midnight ocean. She dances into the night as the earthly elements of branches, bread, and walnut hold her ashore. The ingredients become family members, though each form is slightly cracked, broken or consumed, they still work together in close quarters and remain dependent on one another. When viewing Goldberg’s work, associations and relationships of the viewer to these objects create the dialogue and emotional connection to these still lifes
Still Life with Red Onion, Walnut, and Bread (PCG169)
Goldberg photographs portions of a feast as he does humankind. Dead Sea Spa (PCG148) from his 2009 series 18 Days in the Land of Israel strikes a resemblance to Still Life with Pomegranate Seeds (PCG177) from his newest body of work. The void of subjects in the left of the frame echoes the blanket of red filling the same area in the more recent photograph. There is a sense of isolation in both of these images but we find strength in the pair of characters—knowing that, with a partner, things seem more hopeful. The otherwise empty frame leaves space for growth and interpretation of texture.
Dead Sea Spa (PCG148)
Still Life with Pomegranate Seeds (PCG177)
Still Life with Pomegranate, Pumpkin and Bitten Pear (PCG168) seems to be the most humanistic within this series. With the artist’s apparent contribution to the biting of the fruit, the viewer has the opportunity to see inside the process of creating these still moments. The pumpkin takes the main stage, creating a boundary from the dark infinity, setting a platform for the wounded pomegranate and assaulted pear. Though not the focal point of the image, I find myself interested in the visual escape route provided by the acorn top. The mischievous topper maps a similar trajectory as the man rounding the corner in Goldberg’s In Stride (PCG151) from his work in Israel. Both subjects are found in a transitional space, the essence of the light “catching” the man finds a parallel with the attention drawn to the acorn top.
Still Life with Pomegranate, Pumpkin and Bitten Pear (PCG168)
Goldberg’s In Stride (PCG151)
Goldberg found a refreshed interest in creating studio-based images with the introduction of the stone tablets. The layers created by the coolness of the stones serve to estrange pieces of the setup while neutralizing the palette. Taking a journey through Goldberg’s photographic history, the influences of his travels and experience fuel the images he creates and specific forms are noticed to reappear. Two of Us (PCG19) from the series Objects of my Affection, photographed almost fifteen years ago, depicts the pumpkin shown in Still Life with Pomegranate, Pumpkin, and Bitten Pear (PCG168), now grown and acting as a guardian for younger fruits. The color shift denotes growth and change, emphasizing the passage of time and the metamorphosis we endure during that period. As his series continues, he incorporates those favored harvests but many of them display what time will do to any living thing. The newest images including aged garlic (PCG 179-181) remind us that as we grow older our physical appearance may morph, but our character only evolves. Though always possessing a hint of nostalgia, Goldberg’s images hone in on the idea of “Memento Mori,” emphasizing the object’s natural trajectory and ultimately their demise.
Two of Us (PCG19)
Still Life with Aged Garlic, Squash Stem and Acorn
Entering a new chapter in Paul Cary Goldberg’s work, we are invited to witness the artist’s focus on imperfections to find beauty within. The harried relationships we navigate are elegantly displayed within Still Life with Garlic Clove and Pods (PCG181). There is a playfulness between these two characters, a sense that they have spent a lifetime with one another and now are so entwined it would be a mad man’s task to try and separate them.
Still Life with Garlic Clove and Pods (PCG181)
I view this series of photographs with a longing to understand more about the relationships of the characters—the fruits that have become guardians; the broken shells and discarded skins, which exhibit their vulnerability and expiration. Though recognizing the inevitable quietus of our personal armor, we are consistently reminded of the succulence beneath the hardened exterior.
Associate Director of the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA