516 Arts is hosting three gobsmacking photography installations through Sept. 17.
Curator Teresa Buscemi offers “Starn Brothers: Absorption of Light” with images by twin brothers Mike and Doug Starn, who have been exploring the implications of the duality of light and dark, life and death and other binary subjects for many years.
Moths are the subject of concern in this installation, with their fleeting time on earth of a few short weeks often ending early with a flight into the flame. My favorite piece is “Attracted to the Light 1” a gigantic mural consisting of a grid built of separate prints on paper and pinned to the wall to form an image of a heroic-scale moth looking much like the monster Mothra from Japanese post-World War II horror films.
However, the Starns’ moth, though monstrous in size, retains its delicate fragility through the use of filmy paper that echoes the almost transparent powdery wings on a real-world moth. Their work raises metaphorical issues regarding life/death and attraction/repulsion for all mortal creatures, including the human family.
With work by 14 artists, “Future Tense,” by co-curator Traci Quinn and the University of New Mexico Art Museum, is an international potpourri of excellent and hard-hitting imagery. This is photography with a social conscience blended with a high skill set.
One of many favorites is “Anastasia” by Tamas Dezno, who is concerned by the forced industrialization under former communist rule that led to catastrophic reduction in Romanian human cultural habitat.
Another powerful image by Dezno is “The Flooded Village of Geamana” in central Romania. All that remains is a church steeple surrounded by water. Dezno is as bothered by the loss of spiritual aspirations as he is by the destruction of the land.
In “Anastasia,” the beautifully rendered wrinkled face of an old woman metaphorically unveils the pristine youth that ended abruptly with the assassination of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia at age 17 by communist revolutionaries.
Dezno is reminding us of the wishful rumors that circulated after her death that by some miracle the lovely Anastasia had escaped the fate of the rest of her family. Dezno’s model is well-chosen for her striking resemblance to the young duchess.
This is a great piece of photography with perfect lighting and the Alice-through-the-looking-glass use of a mirror in which to focus the image. I had to stop and put my socks back on.
After lacing up, I was haunted by “Untitled (from the series The Keepers)” by Christine Collins, depicting two beekeepers in full protective regalia tending a hive.
The picture, shot in a green and leafy landscape, features a pregnant woman emblemizing the worldwide death of bee colonies following the flagrant dissemination of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides during the past 50 years.
Though agribusiness reaps huge short-term profits, we will all move toward the brink of starvation after we’ve killed the last pollinators. Wake up, little Susie, wake up.
“As We See It” upstairs requires a long climb or elevator ride to witness some outstanding work by Native American artists. This is the perfect show to visit if your stair machine is on the fritz.
The wow piece is “Peelatchiwaaxpaash/Medicine Crow (Raven): Aappiiwaaxaaxiish/Shing Shell” a gorgeous tapestry by Wendy Red Star that shares a kinship with inventor Buckminster Fuller’s “Dymaxion Map” from the late 1930s, first published in 1943. Though Red Star’s horizontal triangulated geometry echoes Fuller’s, hers is not a copy of his world map.
It is an elaborately beautiful frame for two large photographic prints of a lovely woman in traditional American Indian attire. The black-and-white rectangular prints seem to float in the colorful asymmetrical tapestry as if they represented a window into another dimension.
Another interdimensional image can be found in Will Wilson’s misty portrait of Kathleen Ash-Milby, Citizen of the Navajo Nation, Curator NMAI 2012.
The overall image has a ghostly quality and symbolizes the passage of time. The seated woman exudes confidence and surety of self despite the foggy background and out of focus portable typewriter in the foreground that implies impermanence.
There is an overall sense of edgy ironic humor throughout “As We See It,” but it embraces sadness regarding the destruction of a once-pristine natural environment. We can only hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is not the headlight of a coal train coming toward us.
Don’t miss these shows.