Tono Stano – Gift (1999)
Like much of Stano’s work, I am, at first, not certain how to engage with this photograph: it’s stunning–both in the sense of the reflection of sunlight off a moving vehicle that unexpectedly blinds you as well as incurring a coup de grace.
That’s probably not such a bad starting point, actually. (First idea, best idea–and all that.) There is something impossible about the light in the above: the over exposure along the ridge of your back, the flattering dynamic range of gradients on her face. (There’s almost certainly some sort of wizard-like chicanery with bounce boards going on just beyond the frame edge.)
After the initial wow-ness of seeing it, I naturally think woman with apples and start running with the biblical Eve mythos. On the surface, I feel that’s a super hackneyed premise. I’m inclined to accuse the artist of a lack of subtlety, when I should probably equally blame myself for the ease with which I trot down that well-worn path.
However, I don’t think it’s the wrong path. Here the woman is looking at something on the ground with both gravity and curiosity. The viewer might very much be intended to make this sort of subconscious connection. The three apples (instead of the usual one associated with the trope), suggests a fascination with the potential of knowing of good and evil (and from a theological standpoint: embracing of sin).
The more I look at this the more I’ve convinced that the allusions to Eve actually serve a recursive purpose, to present the surrender to temptation with nothing more than an implicit tempter.
Everything else points to a rapturous celebration of the sensuous pleasure of being human, alive and therefore physically embodied. (Also, from the standpoint of compositional form: not how the parabola of her rounded back opposes the inverse parabola of the grass behind her and how her shape and order contrast with the blurry chaos of vegetation; and how the dark background in the upper 40% of the frame makes her stand out more–conceptually suggesting that between chaos and nothing, there is humanity and it’s potential of sensuous experience.)