French conceptual artist Sophie Calle actually got her start in photography while staying in Bolinas in the late 1970s. Renting the home of a photographer after she had been traveling for seven years, she learned how to use a camera, and took photographs of tombstones in a graveyard. Those pictures are part of one of the four pieces she has on display through August 20th in a show called Missing at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, curated by Ars Citizen.
There’s more about the exhibition, which is free (but advance tickets are recommended) at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture website.
Two of the works, while dealing with very specific aspects of the artist’s life, remain universal as they tell of loss. For Take Care of Yourself, which was featured at the Venice Biennale in 2007, Calle solicited the professional responses of over 100 women to a break-up letter she received. Their comments and annotations are displayed with photos of them in their capacities as judge, anthropologist, proof-reader, and the like. Almost at the same time that she learned she was going to be in the Biennale, her mother became ill and was going to die, telling her daughter that she wished she could be there. That prompted the creation of Rachel Monique, a multi-media work that includes the photos that had captivated her in Bolinas (of gravestones with just the word ‘Mother’ on them), along with her mother’s diary entries, and a video that captures (but not in a way perceptible to the eye) the final minutes of her death. That work is at the Chapel. At the Firehouse, with its water view, are two pieces that were created in Istanbul: one called The Last Image, with photos of people who lost their sight describing the last thing they saw, or can remember seeing. And Voir la mer, which shows the eyes and faces of people from Istanbul who, although surrounded by it, had never before seen the sea. They’re captured from the back as they first witness it, and then turn to the camera.