Riley Hall Photography Gallery: Jessica Larva


Location: The Photography Gallery at Riley Hall (second floor) (View on map )

Larva Otolith Shift Orange


The Photography Gallery at Riley Hall is proud to announce From Where I Stand—an exhibition of photographs by Jessica Larva. The exhibition is open September 3–29, 2022.

The central feature of human vision is that it feels like a faithful reflection of the external world, however our senses are demonstrably limited and malleable. My work seeks to isolate and amplify visual phenomena to examine and celebrate the complexities of sight.


Growing up in the flat landscape of the Midwest, the long expanse of the horizon has an almost tangible presence. It is a familiar and calming constant, and yet a horizon only exists in our minds. It is a mental construct, an artifact of embodied human perception, and even the concept of the horizon is paradoxical. Celine Flecheux writes in her book L’horizon, “the seemingly contradictory aspects of the horizon oblige us to ask ourselves what is the nature of the horizon, and whether it is a line, a circle, an opening or a wall, a locus for the vanishing point or a chimerical place, a mark of the finite or resonance of the infinite, an enveloping limit or vertiginous abyss.”

This body of work developed from an interest in how we align conflicting perceptions and reestablish visual and cognitive balance. Physiologically a sense of balance is derived from a network of systems including vision, the vestibular system in the inner ear, and proprioception all contributing to a sense of the body’s place in space. If those systems generate ambiguous or conflicting signals, we suffer from disorientation that can range from momentary confusion to debilitating vertigo.

Psychological balance is also often symbolically and metaphorically represented through orientation and direction. Phrases like “my world turned upside-down” or “I couldn’t tell if I was coming or going” can indicate confusion, an overwhelmed state, and lack of psychological balance. Given the interconnectedness of human perceptual systems, it seems fitting that physiological and psychological balance would share a vocabulary of orientation.

The artworks in this exhibition are digital composites of numerous photographs spanning moments in time, location, and scale. The images are deliberately cropped and upended to force a new perspective. This allowed me to create a new set of conditions to address space, orientation, and balance by blurring boundaries between water and sky, foreground and background, advancing and receding.

In some ways the works resemble strokes of paint or reference Color Field painting, but the use of photography is critical to me because the camera captures representational details that reveal how the horizons pivot, abutting “above” and “below” until the orientation becomes convoluted. Viewers often tilt their heads as they look at the work activating endolymph fluid in the inner ear and adding another signal to the perception of balance.

The individual horizon sections used in these pieces essentially lose their original properties of space and orientation to become an undulating curtain of color. At the same time the strata of vertical bands combine into an entirely new horizontal form. When observed together, the artworks in the exhibition construct a horizontal gesture around the space and create a relationship between the body of the viewer and the form of the work. Despite the pronounced perspective shifts in the individual image components, the impulse to align and unify visual elements prevails and the work establishes its own sense of continuity and balance.

Jessica Larva is a contemporary artist whose work explores phenomena of visual perception. She earned a BFA and MFA in new media art at the Ohio State University, and now lives in Chicago, Illinois where she is an Associate Professor in the Art School at DePaul University. Larva’s artwork has been exhibited in notable exhibitions including solo shows Leeward at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas and Fluid Horizons at Ohio Dominican University’s Wehrle gallery. Other recent exhibitions include Flourish at the d’Art Center in Virginia, Insight at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Massachusetts and Inhabit at the Manifest Gallery in Ohio. Larva was formerly the studio assistant for artist Ann Hamilton and a founding member of Fuse Factory, an art and technology non-profit.