The land we call America once was an unspoiled place before uninvited immigrants began arriving in large numbers, bringing crime and disease with them. The immigrants came mostly from Europe and soon overran Native Americans' idyllic lands and exiled the indigenous people to refugee enclaves called reservations. In “Where You Come From is Gone” at Staple Goods, photographers Jared Ragland and Cary Norton used an antique camera, archaic photo processes and a portable darkroom in a truck to document sites where Native Americans once lived in Alabama, places now sometimes empty and resonant with a sense of absence. “Garrett Cemetery, Cherokee County, Alabama, 2017” is emblematic, a dark arboreal vortex beyond a cemetery that evokes a desolate Anselm Kiefer painting. There lie the remains of the area's last Cherokee chief, who died just before his tribe's forced exile. The aura of silence is deafening.
The imprints of place, culture and class are explored in Janna Ireland's realistic yet subtly ethereal photographs set in suburban Los Angeles in her “The Valley Below” expo at Antenna Gallery. She appears as a central yet neutral figure at a tastefully posh, traditional San Fernando Valley manse, where her role as a contemplative observer who happens to be black gives us a kind of ebony Virginia Woolfean view of a classic California wonderland. In images that flow together with the disjointed continuity of dreams, we see her applying makeup in a mirror in “Cream” (pictured), posed shyly in a swimsuit by a pool in “The Diving Board” and amid palms or citrus trees in scenes reminiscent of anthropological self-portraits. Others include domestic interior details from her husband's grandfather's home, where his taste for splendid yet understated objects, further distilled through the photographer's eye, yields pristinely somnambulistic domestic tableaux. Combining work from two earlier series, Ireland provides us with a penetrating look into the psychic dimensions of a specific place in a particular locale in photographs that often read like elegant experiments in pure perception. Both through April 7. “The Valley Below” by Janna Ireland. Antenna Gallery, 3718 St. Claude Ave., (504) 298-3161; www.antenna.works. “Where You Come From is Gone” by Jared Ragland and Cary Norton. Staple Goods, 1340 St. Roch Ave., (504) 908-7331; www.staplegoods.org.