Jerome Cabeen’s exhibition “Strange Beautiful” is on display in the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Dunn Gallery.

Museum of the Gulf Coast hosts Cabeen photo show

“Knots to Untie” by Jerome Cabeen

In his travels, which encompass more than 35 countries, Jerome Cabeen has found one essential truth — everything is interconnected. The photographs in his exhibition, “Strange Beautiful,” on display at the Museum of the Gulf Coast through Aug. 31, demand the viewer meditate on the interconnectivity of nature and man. 

The small Dunn Gallery is the perfect setting for this intimate show, with its low ceilings and soft lighting. It’s best to view the works in quiet, taking the time to absorb the stillness of the images, most of which feature trees. Cabeen’s images are atmospheric and filtered to lead the viewer on a spiritual journey, inspired by his interest in Buddhism.

In a release, Cabeen states that his interest in the Buddhist belief in the idea that everything is connected. “When I am hiking through nature or feel the tidal surge from the ocean baptizing me once again, it is there that I encounter the Sacred Divine. It is a communion that goes beyond words. This show is wordless, speechless communications from something entirely bigger than myself or my cameras.”

“The Way” by Jerome Caben

“Knots to Untie” is probably the best representation of the show’s theme of interconnectivity. Shot in the Big Thicket, it features a single branch, blue hewn, around which is wrapped a wiry vine, whose existence depends on the branch for support. The branch fades into nothingness at the top and bottom of the image, giving it a quality that is both of the world and, yet, somehow existing in its own realm. The background is muted, but a tinge of green backlights the knotted vine.

“Strange Beautiful” is lifted from Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun” — “Strange beautiful, grass of green, with your majestic silver seas. Your mysterious mountains I wish to see more closely….” “Knots to Untie” is a small representation of that expansive beauty.

“The Way,” taken at High Island, has a fairy tale quality. It is a simple path through the woods. The viewer stands in darkness of the overgrown woods, but the way forward is illuminated in the difference. At first, it seems clear that the light is the way out. But what if it is a lure to the witch’s house? The image made me smile as my own sense of stories imprinted itself on the image. Surely that is what Cabeen intends for us. To look deeply and contemplate ourselves in the image.

“40 Days in the Desert” by Jerome Cabeen

Most of the images are monochromatic, grays or with hints of color. However, “40 Days in the Desert,” taken at White Sand, New Mexico, positively pops off the wall. It is fitting that is stands alone on a thin strip of wall between doors. The bright colors scream out to be noticed, and yet the composition is intensely quiet, with a simple Yacca plant standing alone. The vibrancy of the blue sky and bright yellow sand only accentuates the solitude of the plant.

“Strange Beautiful” is an example of an intimate show opening up an expanse of ideas. Cabeen’s release states, “Each tells a story. Each is you. Each is me. It is strange. It is beautiful. The exhibition invites the careful viewer to sit and contemplate their relationship to the physical and spiritual world.

This story was first published in the Aug. 20 Beaumont Enterprise’s Art of Living.

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