Sunday, September 20, 2009

Part 1: New Doherty Photo Finds a Home in Spring Branch

We collect a photographer who combines art and science. It looks like a view from monochromatic kaleidoscope, but it’s a collaged photo…of an x-ray of…seeds. The artist, photographer Dornith Doherty, titled it “May.” (Barbara Nytes-Baron is in the middle here; art’s on your left and the photographer’s on your right.)

The piece did not arrive in our collection in the title month, the same May 2009 in which the photographer had her new show. We purchased it on a late spring evening at the McMurtrey Gallery, but did not bring it home until now. Which gave Barbara time to plan a bit of a surprise as well, for me. (You’ll be able to read about that in Part 2, ‘kay?)

Barbara has admired Doherty’s work for years – we have her “Apache Plume” in the living room; as you can see here, it’s completely different than “May.”

In fact, the entire “Archiving Eden” show demonstrates Doherty’s continual engagement not only with nature, but with technology too. The artist herself has written, “Eden” is a…photographic project that takes tiny forms of life – seeds – as its most basic subject.” And so it does: All the subjects of her new pieces come from the 500,000-seed storage vaults at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, CO. This is where the stuff of life (ag division) is kept safe, to preserve diversity; although a less involving website than that of the USDA/NGCRP would be difficult to discover.

The basic technique is x-ray photography – x-rays of bean sprouts, the seeds of ash trees and bananas and capers. While Doherty appears to focus narrowly on the tissue samples and the germinated seed varieties, viewers (like us) can’t ignore the technology she’s used to make art. She photographed the biological materials with the Center’s compact x-ray equipment and then aggregated those images into photos with singular images and collages.

We’re faced with (and charmed by) visions of literally seminal plant life moderated through Doherty’s “technoscopic vision.” An inch-long banana seed clone takes on a different meaning when it’s 15-by-15-inches square. Her pictures swirl about it in the printed spaces or collect in patterns in the middle of the photographic paper. It’s just odd to me that Wired magazine hasn’t featured Doherty for her convergences of life, art and technology.

Thanks to the artist and the McMurtrey Gallery for the chance to own a piece like “May.” Our new archival pigment photograph is not as big as “Apache Plume,” but measuring a yard square, it’s a whole lot larger than life.

PS: Watch of “Richard's wonderful surprise” coming in Part 2 of this story.

1 comment:

Susan Reeves said...

Reminds me of snow. Soft, ever-changing, quite yet packs a punch