Arts + Culture


Water World

Christy Lee Rogers’ solo show at METHOD & CONCEPT, which runs Jan. 13 through Feb. 25, captures the human form in fluid motion.

BY January 1, 2022
Pictured: Creation (2018). (Courtesy Christy Lee Rogers)

METHOD & CONCEPT, the art gallery-meets-design atelier at The Collective in Naples, is known for pushing boundaries with contemporary art from emerging and mid-career American artists. Starting on Jan. 13, the team showcases the effervescent art of Hawaii-bred, Nashville-based photographer Christy Lee Rogers. “Her work is dreamlike, theatrical and ethereal, and her production is nothing short of what a conductor or director does. It’s a choreographed performance,” METHOD & CONCEPT’s founder and director Chad Jensen says. Rogers’ radiant images show bodies twisting gracefully, fabric unfurling around the subjects while they’re suspended in water. Rogers, who has always loved being around water, primarily corrals friends and family as subjects, photographing them in residential pools, where she has more control over the environment than if she were shooting in nature. During the sessions, Rogers shines spotlights down into the pool, where the water diffuses the light. The subjects’ final contorted shapes in the images are simply the result of them trying to stay afloat. “Christy Lee is so immersed in the process,” Jensen says. “It’s very deliberate yet she allows so much room for improvisation and accidental discoveries. Sometimes it’s disarray; sometimes it’s intimate and romantic.”

Water plays a key role in Rogers’ work as the tool she uses to “pose” her subjects, but her subject matter is the figures themselves as manipulated by the buoyancy and atmosphere. The photographs are unedited, so the viewer sees the ensuing interplay of light, shape and color as it vividly appears underwater. Her work is also filled with historical and religious references. The arcing, intertwining montage of glowing limbs and hemlines recall influences ranging from Greek and Roman mythology to the extravagance of Renaissance- and Baroque-era artworks. Here, Jensen shares insights on Rogers’ work, connecting her affinity for water, art history, ancient mythology and otherworldly depictions of the human form.

 

The artist, who has a show at METHOD & CONCEPT in the Naples Design District this month, presents classic references in a modern context. Pictured: Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love (2020) (Courtesy Christy Lee Rogers)

Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love (2020)

In this image (shown on p. 321), Rogers’ figures twist and overlap with the flowing fabric, creating a continual sense of movement. “Water possesses a kinetic energy that Christy Lee loves to capture in her work, and the drama and fluidity of Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love is a fine example,” Jensen says. “Sometimes there is stillness and other times controlled chaos—it’s all part of her process and a choreographed performance.” A similar piece is featured on the cover of coffee company Lavazza’s 2021 calendar, themed The New Humanity. In 2020, Apple also commissioned Rogers to create works shot on the iPhone 11 Pro to promote its creative capabilities.

 

Christy Lee Rogers plays with water, light, shadow and form in her underwater photography. Pictured: Creation (2018). (Courtesy Christy Lee Rogers)

Creation (2018)

Rogers luminously references the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Creation (shown on p. 314). A deep carmine robe billows like the cloak flowing behind God in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. “This is one of the pieces that drew me to Christy Lee’s work and reminds me of the power art can have,” Jensen says. “Much like the Sistine’s ceiling, one wants to stop, take it in and absorb it.” Rogers is aware of the responsibility she takes on when translating masterpieces into the present day, shown by the effort she puts into her shoots and how she astutely selects images that best imitate the original compositions. “I appreciate that Christy Lee does not shy away from big, ambitious projects, as also evidenced by her series inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. The sheer theater and production of Christy Lee’s work is a modern-day homage to those great Old Masters,” he states. “And she handles them with great care and respect.”

 

Major brands, such as Apple and Lavazza, have commissioned Rogers’ photography. Pictured: Blue Romance (2018) (Courtesy Christy Lee Rogers)

Blue Romance (2018)

In Blue Romance (shown on p. 316), Rogers uses movement and proximity to convey a full range of romantic emotions as figures float away from each other or closely interact. “Christy Lee’s canvas is water,” Jensen says. “Sometimes we see more, sometimes less. Her compositions are mostly full-bleed images that extend beyond the frame. Blue Romance pulls the lens back to reveal a slightly different context.” Here, Rogers’ perspective allows a more complete view of the figures, with the distances between their bodies easily shown in expanses of the exposed floor.

 

Her work is filled with historical references from religion and Greek and Roman mythology, as seen in this piece inspired by a Sistine Chapel fresco. Pictured: Harmony (2018) (Courtesy Christy Lee Rogers)

Harmony (2018)

The golden hue in Harmony (shown on p. 318)—which earned her the Open Photographer of the Year award at the 2019 Sony World Photography Awards—casts each subject in a luminescent aura as they reach for the glowing orange light source at the surface. “The color effect lends a sort of sepia tone and antiquity to the work,” Jensen says, adding that orange can also evoke positive and uplifting energy, leaving the viewer in a harmonious state. “She’s a multitalented artist who is seeking new media and ways to express our shared and universal connection to water and the past,” he says. “Her work makes me stop and pause for a bit, and in this world of hyperchaos, I think we all need to recognize when that hits us and then allow ourselves a brief moment of respite.”