S. Billie Mandle, ‘No. 16’, 2015-2017, Pictura Gallery

Series: This World Is The Closed Door

Image rights: S. Billie Mandle

I made these images looking through the fence and foliage surrounding a cloistered convent. I frequently walked the convent perimeter with my large format camera, climbing through fields and overgrown forests, struggling to see what was in front of my lens. The pictures focus on what blocked my vision, not the convent itself. I wanted to see the barrier separating me from a world that was visible but inaccessible. This work hopefully evokes the difficulty of seeing -- the experience of grappling with a subject not easily revealed. Throughout the project I was in conversation with the nuns and sent them images that I made. The title of this work comes from a passage by Simone Weil: “This world is the closed door. It is a barrier. And at the same time it is the way through. Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.”

My work looks at subjectivity and the built environment. I am curious about the relationship between religion and faith, identity and interiority, architecture and place. I make photographs that border on abstraction – work that is quietly queer and queerly quiet. Marie Howe has written that poetry holds what can’t be said; I would like for my images to hold what can’t be seen.