Even though it’s been years since I first saw her work, many of Elaine Stocki’s photographs have stuck with me and claimed importance in my mind. This is probably because they evoke such a unique intensity of mood and feeling. They are haunting, and they just don’t look like any other photographs I see. Palomino is no exception. It is a wild, swirling chaos of color and gesture that gives off a burning heat. It almost scares me. Somehow Stocki figured out how to summon the dream state, or enter into a hallucination where the normal rules of reality don’t apply. I have no idea how she does it. One of the many joys of this picture for me is surrendering to its mystifying trance, letting its force pull you in.
Another part of the magic of Palomino – aside from the distinctive mood and feeling – is that it rejects easy interpretation. It’s impossible to pin down. It suggests clues as to what might be happening but reveals nothing. Even after studying the photograph for a long time there are no definitive answers. It’s a moment that is powerful precisely because of its lack of clarity. To me, it’s this open-ended quality that makes this image so amazing. Stocki invites the viewer to participate in their own creative interpretation and invention, allowing them to trust their imagination and let go. Palomino, like all my favorite artworks, is experienced more than understood.
A while back I read something the poet Mark Strand said in an interview that I saved in my phone. I keep returning to it now and then. Looking at Palomino, it seems appropriate here: “…we live with mystery, but we don’t like the feeling. I think we should get used to it. We feel we have to know what things mean, to be on top of this and that. I don’t think it’s human, you know, to be that competent at life.”