St. Barth’s is a winter haven, a refuge for the French and Francophiles alike. Unique in it’s infrastructure and distance from it’s mother country, a visit allows a glimpse into a condesed segment of French territorial living. Known for it’s haute cuisine and star-studded beaches, St. Barth’s is a wonderful destination. Many people visit annually for the Cinema Caribes film festival, which I highly recommend.
Analyzing an excerpt from the “Journey” series next to Ansel Adam’s Redwood Grove allows us to see how color affects the representation of a subject. Both photographs depict the poetic, monumental Redwood trees of Northern California. There is no attempt to twist or recontextualize nature in either photograph – each is a testament to the majesty of the trees. Adams’ work is more documentarian, less elaborated in the staid, simple black and white tones, but the rich greens and browns of Kathryn’s work, combined with the slightly lower angle, emphasize a sense of magic in the trees. The forest is cast in a fairy tale, and one million possibilities exist within its borders.
Julian Schnabel’s immaculate 2007 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly creates an ethereal, heartbreaking atmosphere that reminds me a great deal of Kathryn’s works from the “One Day” series, or this piece from the “Journey” series. The setting for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a rehabilitation center on the Northern coast of France, and Schnabel, an accomplished artist and director, portrays the place lovingly in sandy taupes, purpley-gray blues, and a divine yellowy-white light. In Kathryn’s works the beaches of the Outer Banks are shown in a similar way, with the hint of human and animal life adding the touch of emotion that pervades the entire duration of Schnabel’s film. Having seen the film before being introduced to Kathryn’s work, upon reviewing it’s impossible to miss how similarly (and well, may I add) both artists have dealt with a similar subject and turned it into something much more meaningful than its face value.
Rene Magritte’s 1955 The Mysteries of the Horizon and Kathryn’s piece of TRAVELERS FROM WHERE IN PLACE both utilize the power of the headpiece. As the royals wore crowns and religious groups their particular habiliments of the head, people wear hats to define who they are. Magritte’s bowler hats, a common motif in his work, are visually interesting, their slight absurdity multiplied each time one appears. They also indicate a sameness, or lack of individuality, amongst the figures, or alternately that it is the same person. The two men of Kathryn’s piece share this sameness, with their black ribboned, perforated white fedoras, light blue shirts, and black backpack straps. We know they are tourists, but do we know why they are there? More importantly, why they wear the same hat? It’s a small hint of Surrealism captured alongside the sites of PLACE.
Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 Christina’s World, the image on the bottom, has become one of the defining images of American art, perhaps only second to Grant Wood’s American Gothic in its communication of American values and lifestyles to the viewer. Kathryn’s image from the “Journey” series is able to express a similar sense of Americana in just as sparse a composition. The tawny, shifting wheat of Wyeth’s piece is echoed in the swaying grass of Kathryn’s piece; compositionally, the ocean in Kathryn’s work is analagous to the circle of mowed field around the house. Just as Wyeth’s farmhouse places the scene in the American midwest and communicates all sorts of morals such an image conveys, the picnic table contextualizes Kathryn’s work. The lone figure is somewhat like the yearning figure of Christina; the table begs for families and couples to enjoy the sun on its planks as Christina struggles to crawl to her home. It’s a sense of melancholy lonliness, seperate from pity or depression, we feel in both pieces.
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.
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.