The Great Escape

Mesa-Pelly says her work is about "seeking a new identity and some sort of renewal," among other things, and perhaps this is the point to mention that she was born in Havana, Cuba, spent a year in Spain while still a baby, and came to New York—to Queens, then Brooklyn—when she was only two. "A lot of the photos have to do with this memory of childhood, so it's very real to me. Not specific personal memories," she qualifies, "just these fears, and changing identity." Prodded to relate the work to her life, she resists, insisting, "It's all about imagination, what I enjoy and how I see things. But work, artwork, always relates to the artist, whether they admit it or not."

‘‘I like that these things could be possible’’: Black Hole (1999).   
photo: courtesy Lombard-Freid Fine Arts
‘‘I like that these things could be possible’’: Black Hole (1999).   

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Deborah Mesa-Pelly
Lombard-Freid Fine Arts
531 West 26th Street
Through February 12

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When not sewing up little patches of lawn for her photos, she teaches photography at Purchase and at CUNY's Staten Island campus and freelances for The New York Times Magazine.But for some time at least, Mesa-Pelly is likely to be typed as another ambitious Yale M.F.A. grad ('95)—one of the many young women photographers who have hit the art world hard and fast over the past few years. Though she's been tapped for a expanded traveling version of last year's breakthrough Yale-grad fest, "Another Girl, Another Planet," cocurated by Crewdson, she doesn't seem much interested in the bandwagon. She'd rather talk about escape, transformation, and building things. "I want to make full-scale constructions that I can actually go into," she says, her eyes lighting up. "Basically, I've been cheating, using the illusion of photography. I've made segments of places and worked within the segments. What I'm interested in doing now is making the construction, going into the construction, and having a segment of a real world showing through. I don't know how my talent for making things is going to hold up, but it's held up so far."

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