“I’m always creating questions in my pictures about what’s real and what’s not,” says Barbara Cole. “It’s sometimes hard to detect the smoke and mirrors, but they’re always there.” In Underworld, water was her means of distorting reality. Cole was drawn to water’s refractions and reflections, to the way it shapes light and bends objects, lending her images an air of abstract expressionism. As a result, the women appear at home at the bottom of this swimming pool: ethereal creatures that are by turns arrestingly beautiful and eerily still. And Cole, too, reinvented herself as sea nymph, weighing herself down so she could look up through a watery veil: “I wanted to look at water from the inside out.” Everything slows down in water, Cole says; it has a different rhythm. Her viscous images flow towards the viewer, a manifestation of that tempo.