Rachel Harrison is interested in the act of looking and of comprehending (or not) the entire visual field that surrounds us. Perth Amboy is a series of photographs of a window in a suburban New Jersey house upon which an apparition of the Virgin Mary reportedly appeared. In this work, Harrison explores the transition from experience to belief through the vehicle of the art object.
Her photographs record the accumulation of smudged marks from the multitude of hands of the faithful who visited the house and, whether or not they saw an apparition, found something to believe in on a windowpane. Perth Amboy is not simply a document about the limits of faith or the irrationality of belief, but also a deeper query into the power of human desire to believe and to transfer that belief into something tangible.
Harrison’s sculptures, combining biomorphic and geometric abstract forms with found objects and video, also address her interest in the leap of faith involved in the experience of an art object. Intentionally thwarting easy reading, she sets up mysteries, encouraging the viewer to look actively, both physically and conceptually, and to follow her allusive clues into niches, behind walls, and through visual mazes.