As last week I discussed elements of abstract expressionism in Kathryn’s work (linked), this week I’d like to show how the colors she captures in nature are related to the frenetic, raw pace of Lyrical Abstraction. The muted pastels in both this work from the “One Day” series and Ronnie Landfield’s For William Blake are pretty without being saccharine, muted but not sad; there’s a great balance in both compositions that is more apparent in the emotions aroused in the viewer than in the visual appearance of the work. Both pieces seem to benefit from chance but also show a measured attention to detail; it is the randomness, however, that is celebrated. Landfield’s piece exaults in the dancing, hopping lines of quiet but electric color while the entire premise of Kathryn’s piece – the setting of the sun – is reliant on intangible concepts such as time. Art as abstract as Landfield’s piece has the ability to seem both completely devoid of and dripping in meaning; this multiplicity also permeates Kathryn’s work. There are so many thoughts one may have when viewing this piece, aesthetic, emotional, and theoretical, and none of them are neither right nor wrong.
Join us for an Open Studio Friday May 1st, in McGuffey Art Center! Celebrate First Fridays with us in Studio 27 from 5:30 to 7:30… A selection of Kathryn’s work from this past year will be on display, as well as refreshments for your enjoyment. See you there!
It’s hard not to see shades of Rothko in Kathryn’s photographs of the sky. One of Kathryn’s favorite subjects, the horizontal rippling of color in the sunset is here represented in vibrant primary colors. Compare to Mark Rothko’s 1980 White Center, one of his later pieces; the deconstructed, raw blocks of color could seem to an abstract expressionist representation of the natural moment Kathryn captured in her piece. The jarring black line in between Rothko’s orange and white is like the crackling fire in the lower left of Kathryn’s composition; it breaks up the delineation without detracting from the power derived from the assemblage of hues. The elements in nature in Kathryn’s photograph – the lone cloud, the wood in the fire – are also related to the texture of Rothko’s painting. The painter’s hand is thus comparable to the photographer’s attention to detail; by capturing the fleeting, ephemeral natural moments in the composition Kathryn puts her own unique perspective into frame.
The motif of the Ferris wheel is a lyrical, evocative one for artists. There is a multiplicity of metaphors – childlike joy and wonder, the circular pattern, an expression of the machine age’s majesty – that the technology conveys by its placement in a composition. See Robert Delaunay’s 1912 The Cardiff Team, an early cubist painting based on different newspaper clippings. Delaunay often reduced objects to discs, and does so with his Ferris wheel; it is stairlike and blocky, more utilitarian than the carnival ride most are used to. The Ferris wheel is framed by deconstructed billboards a team of colorful rugby players, who lift their victorious center to catch a ball and seem to hoist him onto the object, onto its endless cycle of wonder. As Delaunay’s work quietly reproached and celebrated the commercialism of the seaside billboards, Kathryn’s pictures the hotels along a beach. This 2006 piece has the billboard framing the commercial oasis of hotels, with the Ferris wheel lording over the entire scene. Like a friendly giant the Ferris wheel seems to reclaim the ocean and nature for good; it’s almost turning counterclockwise, drawing the beachgoers into its playful insides. The entire piece is nostalgic without being specific, universal in its meaning by capturing a particularly interesting moment in this beach (and Ferris wheel)’s life.
“Truth has to be made vivid, interesting; it has to be ‘dramatized’…” – documentary filmmaker Trinh Minh-Ha
Minh-Ha speaks of the need to dramatize truth in documentary film. Having recently viewed her film Surname Viet, Given Name Nam (1989), I thought about the ways in which this dramatization of truth might apply to photography. In the film, Minh-Ha adapts a highly reflexive technique in telling the story of Vietnamese women before and after the war. She stages readings of first-person accounts with actresses and juxtaposes text and spoken word on the screen; all in order to reveal the constructive nature of the filmmaking process.
Although Kathryn’s new series “The Great Divide” is a far cry from post-modern feminist documentary, Minh-Ha’s claim has an interesting connection to Kathryn’s new work. The photographs in the series all engage in a “dramatization” of the truth. Through the Argus and pinhole camera hybrid, Kathryn transforms our everyday surroundings into something unexpected and appealing. The railing 9th Street bridge becomes a shadowy ladder. The awning over the Pavilion transforms into biomorphic shadow on the ground. The visual truth of our everyday experience is invigorated and transformed through the camera. It encourages us to question our aesthetic experience of our surroundings and to look for that “dramatic” element.