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When you were a child, did you ever sneak into an abandoned building? Do you recall how it felt to interrupt the stillness of dust-covered rooms, to disturb the ghostly traces of forgotten lives?

Did you think about the people who once lived here and where they might be now?

And if remembering all this seems like a melancholy experience, maybe Ann Marie Rousseauís exhibition at Orange Coast College will change your mind.

Ann Marie Rousseauís art blends industrial ruins with a redemptive faith in the human spirit. Moved by the sight of an abandoned New England factory (currently being readied for use as an art center), Rousseau devoted two summers to photographing its interior spaces. Less interested in strict documentation than in poetry, Rousseau has added her own twist to a familiar theme. Using friends and other artists as models she has populated the sunlit factory rooms with ghostly nudes.

Leaping, twisting, or just glowing softly with an "interior light." these figures become a sign for the resuscitating power of art. (Art, says Rousseau, is "the one spark of hope from what had been abandoned and destroyed.").

While the focus of the show rests squarely with Rousseauís highly manipulated photographs (paint added to photographs on emulsion-coated linen canvas), the gallery installation also includes old vent covers, electric coils, cable spools and other relics of the machine age. Moreover, even the galleryís signage, pale stenciled letters on a worm window frame, evokes a bygone era..

In a final gesture, one which acknowledges (or maybe mocks? the forces of time, Rousseau displays a proof sheet of her own exhibition catalog in a Plexiglas case, perhaps suggesting that both her art, and what she says about it, will soon become documents- part of the past for others to explore and perhaps resuscitate at some future date.

 

George Tapley,
Daily Pilot
Orange County Register
Thursday, March 14, 1996

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