Stopping Time Through Art

by Ivan Riascos

It’s been 3 years since the last time I attended Art Basel in Miami. On my last day there this year, I saw a solo show of the artist Amanda Ross-Ho at Michael Jon and Alan Gallery located in Miami’s Little Haiti. I was very impressed with her approach on the theme of time, specifically with the stopping of time. The title of the show was Stop Bath.

She references photographic equipment and symbolism to relate to topics that are very prominent in today’s culture. For those who don’t know about processing a photograph, a stop bath is the second step after the developer; it stops the development of an image. If you don’t use a stop bath the image will continue to develop, eventually getting darker. Keeping in line with photography as reference, an image captured by the camera is a fraction of a moment in time.

Amanda Ross-Ho addresses our obsession with youth and beauty. As you enter the gallery the first thing you notice are 12 large black face-masks hanging on the wall. People wear these masks to block light to get an instant “darkroom,” so they can get a good nights’ rest, it also references “Beauty Sleep”. Opposite from the black face-masks are facial masks used frequently by the Asian culture to repair skin damage and keep you looking young. At first I thought they were Mexican wrestling masks, but the flaps that go over the eyes and mouth have not been removed. In the middle of the room were three metal tables referencing a dark room setup, minus the safety lights. Each table has three red trays and in each of those trays are photographs of various stopwatches without hands; some images include a measuring tape next to the watches as if they were measuring time. The photographs were developed onto silk fabric instead of photographic paper, and positioned below each table were three glass jugs containing Epson salt, referencing baths for moisturizing the skin. (In a typical darkroom the chemicals not in use are stored under the table where the trays are located). Finally, on one of the sidewalls are four glass jugs similar to the ones under the table, but each jug contains a different oil associated with ways to keep the skin youthful. The oils on display were Avocado, Castor, Apricot Kernel, and Almond.

I will confess I’m biased towards photography, but what Amanda Ross-Ho is doing is different and wonderful. A typical artist working in the medium of photography would approach this subject matter by creating images depicting youth, mortality, and aging in a documentary series. The idea of taking two different fields of life not related to each other, and making them relate to each other reaffirms that things are connected in a deeper way. Addressing society’s obsession with capturing moments with our phones and seeking a cure-all to aging, a fountain of youth you could say, without solely using photographs is innovative and refreshing in an art world that sometimes feels stagnant.

Link to the exhibitions