'The Secret Ocean' Chronicles Conflicts of Domestic Abuse

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

'The Secret Ocean' Chronicles Conflicts of Domestic Abuse


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


In many cultures around the world, domestic abuse is rarely spoken of, let alone written about. But, for Norwegian artist Reinhardt Sobye, it has become the subject of his art recently. And, thus, the subject of his latest solo show at Box Heart Gallery in Bloomfield.

The exhibit comprises a series of 15 large-scale photographs manipulated with charcoal and pastel that visually describe one woman's emotional journey through domestic abuse, sexual violence, marital manipulation, divorce and, finally, independence.

That woman's name is Ida, and she is a close friend of the artist. They met in 2009, when, as the artist writes via e-mail, "I found myself in a tight spot."

"I was teaching art and digital photography at a Christian boarding school in the rural east of Norway," Sobye says. "I suffered from a serious eye condition which threatened my future as an artist, and I got into a conflict with the manager of the school because the old house I rented from them was uninhabitable."

Desperately searching for another place to live, a friend of Sobye's told him his cousin Ida, who lived abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, had inherited a cottage nearby and asked if he would consider renting it.

"A month or so later, Ida was visiting her relatives in Norway for celebrate 17th May (the Norwegian Day of Independence)," Sobye says. "We met and we fell in love immediately."

A fair and beautiful woman 17 years younger than Sobye, Ida had just been accepted to study art and film at Napier University. Aside from a mutual interest in art, Sobye says the main attraction between them was, "an ability and need to see and understand each other's predicaments."

"I didn't know anything about her life in Edinburgh, but I guess we both had the ability to understand the bitter core of life which is reserved for us all when our lives are shattered and uncertain," he says. "In short, we were able to 'see' each other and we simultaneously understood that we were each other's salvation."

That's when he learned about Ida's past, living with a physically abusive husband while trying to raise their three sons.

There is a special history behind these photos. "I have 70 gigabytes with photos and video clips of these children and their mother," Sobye says. "When, in the evenings, I sifted through the daily hundreds of photos on my computer I saw the outline, again and again, of innocence.

"I recognized it in the kind of contact between the boys and their mother, or more precise in Ida's attitude towards them, a limitless self-sacrifice for their happiness," Sobye says. …

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