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Vuncannon's (wrong) on Mars

I am writing to express my incredulity at Douglas Vuncannon's review of Jean-Christian Rostagni's show, Life on Mars, Part 1: A Photo-Critique of America ("Freedom art," Nov. 22). Perhaps Vuncannon identifies his own lack of the critical interpretation that the show asks of the viewers when he writes, "Those expecting an incisive slap-down of the culture that spawned the 'freedom fry' will be dissatisfied." It seems that Vuncannon is looking for an easy, if not clichéd, critique of the United States—one that ignores the complexity of the contradictions embodied in the actions and possibilities of this tremendous country. Vuncannon repeatedly makes the point that the show falls short as a self-described "photo critique," and maybe therein lies the problem: Vuncannon is clearly expecting Life on Mars to criticize the United States, when in fact the show is offering a critique—a series of insightful, multifaceted, contradictory and sometimes elusive perspectives on this country.

That Vuncannon writes "few of the individual photographs rise above the level of competent but uninspired photojournalism" also leaves me dumbfounded. The photographs are the work of a hugely talented artist, whose passion and lifelong commitment to art and its possibilities are inherent in each photograph. They are beautiful photographs. I would encourage all readers to take the time to visit Through This Lens Gallery in downtown Durham and experience Life on Mars for themselves.

Marybeth Dugan


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