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"A Thousand Rainbows simultaneously evokes cosmic phenomena, the travails of human embodiment, the locomotion of cellular organisms (with arms like flagellae) and, if Chavez’s intuitions are right, the flow of consciousness intrinsic to the creative act.” – Image Journal



A Thousand Rainbows is a body of 25 large-scale photographic works exploring the nature of interpersonal, material, and spiritual relationships through the manipulation of light.


This rebelliously non-digital photography highlights Chavez’s approach to performance for the camera. Her photographic light is founded upon an observation of fundamental physical phenomena such as time, space, motion, and luminosity.

Adopting the metaphor of dark matter from astronomy and cosmology, the photographs relate to a new way of understanding photography to incorporate the visible effects of invisible presence. According to Chavez, “from observing the physical universe, we know that form is the manifestation of relationship between two forces. I recreate this dialectical drama - between myself and my model - within the microcosm of the studio in order to probe objects hidden within deep inner space. I am present within each frame dressed in black as a stagehand as I invisibly direct and illuminate the process.”

It is the subject of the photography monograph, Lia Chavez: A Thousand Rainbows, which was released by Damiani in 2013. The book gathers together this body of work and comprehensively discusses the science and mysticism underpinning it, specifically examining Chavez’s treatment of the nude as a vehicle for exploring a topology of the universe. The book features essays by cultural critic Andrea Codrington Lippke and cultural historian Mark Sprinkle and a foreword written by Lia Chavez.

Although Chavez draws much of her inspiration from physics and advanced imaging technologies, her visual investigations deal equally with basic themes in the history of art. Her photographs raise classical issues in new ways, among them the depiction of three-dimensional figure on a two-dimensional surface, the relationship between abstraction and representation, and the role of performance in the still image.

Disorienting, unsettling, and strangely beautiful, A Thousand Rainbows delves into the material and spiritual essence of the nude figure. In the book, Codrington Lippke writes, “Sexual and spiritual ravishment exist in parallel planes that interconnect in mysterious ways—one of which, Chavez suggests, is art.”

“In A Thousand Rainbows, Chavez strives to echo a cosmic process: the passage of light from object to object—specifically from distant star to the human eye. The heavens we nightly behold are filled with star-points of light that originated at different points in space-time; these lights have traveled vastly divergent distances to the beholder. Some of the stars we behold may have died before their light reaches our eyes, but we see them alongside other lights nevertheless. In A Thousand Rainbows, Chavez creates stop-motion images of human bodies whose reflected light likewise originates at different points in time, but whose images appear simultaneously.” – Image Journal


A Thousand Rainbows, 2012 
Photographic series
Published by Damiani
With scholarly essays by Andrea Codrington Lippke and Mark Sprinkle

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