For nearly a decade, British-Canadian photographer Lorena Lohr has been traveling the southwest of America by bus and train, documenting the region’s fleeting landscapes and distinct character. Photographing everything from motels and bars to desolate parking lots and patches of wasteland, her imagery captures unexpected and often uncanny aspects of the commonplace and the banal in everyday life. In her work, Lohr identifies a sort of poignant and ephemeral beauty and individuality in the neglected and unassuming spaces of middle America.
Her latest exhibition titled Tonight Lounge, at Cobb Gallery, features photographs taken in Memphis and the Midwest – a departure for Lohr from her usual geography of the USA’s Southern states. In the casino towns of Nevada, small towns in Montana, Nebraska, and Colorado, Cheyenne in Wyoming and Memphis, Tennessee, Tonight Lounge documents what the artist calls “a universal language”: the traces of human life and desire of someone striving to make something different. Her work is documentary as much as it is abstract; extracting the specific emotions that are evoked by the fine details and relics of lived experience. The resounding motif that ties these seemingly disparate images together becomes a certain sadness; hidden in the sun-bleached walls and dusty signage of place and time.
Though Lohr does not limit herself to a particular style or genre, her body of work is characterized by a series of recurring motifs: electrical wiring, colourful drinks, details of automobiles, the texture and colours of objects faded and eroded by the sands of time. Language plays a key role in her work as well. Glimpsed through the vernacular of commercial signage, generic phrases lightheartedly and uncannily juxtaposed by their surroundings hint at a certain innate hope, longing, and isolation.
Tonight Lounge evokes a sense of history on a micro-scale, unearthing the enormity and grandeur of human existence through the minute and idiosyncratic. In this way, the series, and Lohr’s oeuvre tends toward a sort of anthropological lens of American life, as if viewed through the eyes of a foreigner, taking in the peculiar customs, rituals, of the inhabitants of the region. The series manages to unearth the cultural tendency toward preservation and retrospection; a region and culture trapped in its own history.
Cody Rooney is a Glossi mag contributor.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.