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Exhibit’s photographic mysteries evoke intrigue

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A swarm of starlings swirls into a funnel cloud. A woman’s face stands before a landscape while the wind throws her hair across her face like a veil. A man’s hands grasp a woman’s face from behind her head; he could be massaging, embracing or squeezing it.

These photographic mysteries may evoke a sense of wonder, intrigue or melancholy in viewers of “Fraction of a Second,” opening at both 516 ARTS and the University of New Mexico Art Museum on Friday, June 5. The dual-site exhibition is being guest curated by David Bram, publisher of the Albuquerque-based online Fraction Magazine.

“I want to know why people pulled over to take a picture or walked 500 kilometers to take a picture,” Bram said. “Also, some of these photographs I’m so jealous of; they’re beautiful.”

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The exhibition gathers the work of 45 photographers, both established and emerging, with 35 from across the United States being shown at 516 ARTS. Several of these either live in New Mexico or attended UNM.

Ten international artists featured at the UNM Art Museum come from China, France, Japan, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Great Britain. The exhibition is the center of a new season-long photography collaboration called “PhotoSummer.”

“Lover’s Embrace” from Daniel Coburn’s “The Heredity Estate” series shows his father’s hands clasping his mother’s head. Now living in Kansas, the photographer earned his master of fine arts degree at UNM. Coburn wrote that the series was his attempt at assembling a more accurate selection of images of a family torn by suicide, domestic violence and addiction than the family photo album reflected.

Peralta-based photographer Karen Kuehn worked as a photographer for “Saturday Night Live” as well as Time, Newsweek, National Geographic and Vanity Fair. Kuehn photographed the late New Mexico low-rider-meets-retablos painter Ray Abeyta, who died in a motorcycle accident last year. Abeyta, born in Santa Cruz, N.M., moved to New York in 1986.

New Mexico landscape and architectural photographer Kirk Gittings photographed both Chaco Canyon and a crumbling Abiquiú morada near Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in all its brooding majesty.

Italy’s Paolo Patrizi captured thousands of birds wheeling through the Roman sky in his “Starlings” series. The birds produce a starling display combined with a nuisance in the form of noise and bird droppings. The image straddles the line between the natural and the abstract, UNM Art Museum interim director Kymberly Pinder said.

“What I love about the starlings is you think it might be bees or a swarm of bugs,” she said.

China’s Jiehao Su produced “Girl Behind the Window,” a haunting photograph of a woman staring through the glass, a curtain draped behind her. Part blank stare, part reflection, it creates a compelling portrait.

“You think, ‘Is she not allowed outside?'” Pinder said. “Is she wistfully looking out at us or at something she’s not participating in? And I love the framing within the frame.”

Baltimore’s Nate Larson and Marni Schindelan track tweets to discover their GPS positions, then travel to their source to capture their locations. The tweet serves as text beneath the image. Their work acts both as a memorial to a moment and a symbol of the lack of privacy inherent in technology.

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