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Wednesday November 22, 2000

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A reverence for nature

Headline Photo

By Maggie Burnett

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Local artist captures the death of the desert in exhibit opening

Though many people may view life as something to be cherished, one local artist finds inspiration in the simplicity of death.

Artist Kate Breakey's exhibit "Naturographia," opening Saturday at the Temple Gallery, 330 S. Scott Ave., is part of a larger body of work titled "Small Death."

The photographs in "Naturographia" are of various objects found in nature after their death such as flowers, birds, frogs and lizards. In these images, Breakey captures the various stages of decay - from recent death to skeletal and even mummified remains.

"Many are shocked by it," she said. "There is something very emotive about the beauty of an object and the sense of sadness that something has passed. This is not about horror or gore but about the beauty and detail that go unnoticed."

Breakey evokes this beauty by using colored pencils and translucent photographic oils directly on the black-and-white photographs to represent the striking, natural colors of her deceased subjects.

"I started in print making and eventually went to photography. Then I began combining media," she said. "The rules have changed so that you just don't have to be a painter. You can be a mixed media artist."

Additionally, each photo is titled with the Latin name of each species as well as its English translation.

"To some extent I'm referring to scientific pictures," she said. "These are not merely specimens - not cool scientific specimens at all. I look at them differently with their scientific name."

"Naturographia" is atypical of Breakey's usual work. She generally produces large pieces that lend more attention to the detail and coloring of a photo than those exhibited at the Temple Gallery.

"This is a completely different venue from an art gallery. Usually I show in the downtown galleries for my massive works," she said about the Temple Gallery. "These pieces are more accessible due to their size. Also, they are gentler (to look at)."

Originally from Australia, Breakey moved to the United States in 1988, living in Texas for 12 years. After completing her master's degree in fine arts at the University of Texas-Austin, Breakey moved to Tucson with her husband, where she has now lived for about 18 months.

"The good thing (about Tucson) is that suddenly there are different desert animals and plants. There are daily occurrences of rattlesnakes, road runners and coyotes," she said. "I prefer to have wildlife around me. I'm not the sort of person who dreams of living in Manhattan."

She has already finished over 100 pieces in this particular series of photos. A full color book of her work titled "Small Death" (University of Texas Press) is scheduled for release next fall.

Though Breakey has been working on the pieces in "Small Death" for the past five years, she said she anticipates continuing with the series into the foreseeable future.

"After my work is seen by the general public, I will continue to do this work," she said. "Even if I think I'm done, I can't be. They (the public) will expect this work."