Camera Obscura (The Myth of the Cave) #1 by Robert Bibler

  • Title: Camera Obscura (The Myth of the Cave) #1
  • Artist: Robert Bibler
  • Medium: Conté crayon and conté pencil with oil medium
  • Size: 30.25"h x 33.25"w
  • Creation date: 1995
  • Added to collection: 2020
  • Donor: Gift of the artist and the Bill Rhoades Collection, a gift in memory of Murna and Vay Rhoades
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B2/1

Optical devices such a mirrors, lenses and glass feature prominently in this artist's work. Here a man looks through a Camera Obscura, a small box which allows the viewer to observe the world projected onto the surface of a dark chamber from a tiny pinhole. The title links this device to Plato's Allegory of the Cave, a chapter of The Republic, in which Socrates describes the fate of figures chained to look at a wall all their lives who are mistakenly convinced that the dark silhouettes they see on the wall are actually people and not merely their shadows.  Socrates imagines the confusion and resistance the inhabitants of the cave would experience if they were freed and dragged into the light to experience the world of things rather than the world of shadows.

Perhaps this is what the large figures behind the man represent: people half asleep and confused by what they see, wanting to return to their comforting ideas of shadows and mistaken appearances.  The modern movie theater has been compared to the Cave in Plato's Allegory, and given this artist's deep love of cinema, perhaps this is also a layer of meaning in this masterful, mysterious and meticulous drawing.