S. Billie Mandle at Cabinet:
Saint Christopher, the enigmatic martyr and patron saint of travelers and children who bore the increasingly heavy Christ child across a deadly river before his own decapitation, bears brown water stains across his acoustical tiles. Light falls in displaced blades through his half-shut opening, across his little ledge, glaring the green cover of a volume lying there, angling down brown half-wall panels into the shadow realm. Saint Elizabeth—who vanishes from the Bible eight days after giving birth, when the men who are to circumcise her son arrive and try to name him Zechariah, whereupon she cries out, “No, he is to be called John!” for this is John the Baptist—is transformed, as in a Greek myth, into the black constellations of perforations in her soundproof paneling, then mantled with a jointed beam of light. And Saint Thomas More, intently principled, severe and merciless, who would not bow to kings, is a single, narrow ray plunging down a wooden wall, illuminating the grain in patterns reminiscent of a seizure patient’s EKG.
For seven years, S. Billie Mandle traveled across the United States, photographing church confessionals, searching, she has written, “for what might be left behind in these private rooms.” One recognition she came to—documented in her series Reconciliation, selections from which are presented here—is that the imprint of what these spaces not only witnessed but lived through was so palpably vivid that the rooms themselves assumed the character of the church’s heroic intercessors. These chambers carried scars suggesting martyrdom and sacrifice—as well as lyric plays of light and color, attesting to the possibility of grace.