By Michael Eilers
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Bero Gallery is presenting a series by local photographer Brion McCarthy, featuring colorful floral abstracts and black-and-white landscapes.
The show, called "Amalgam," is divided into two parts: a series of abstract color photographs, and a series of atmospheric landscapes from both urban and natural environments. The floral photographs are arranged into diptychs, compositions with two photographs placed side-by-side in a sequence that complements and contrasts the colors.
The entire show was purposely shot with a Walt Disney Mickey Mouse 126, a fixed-focus novelty camera that McCarthy has owned since childhood. Using square-format cartridge film with a visible grain, the camera has many limitations compared to a photographer's usual tools. McCarthy has exploited those "limitations" to create a show that explores motion and light with a unique collage of images.
Both halves of the "Amalgam" show are unframed, untitled photographs mounted under panes of glass that are literally nailed to the brick walls of the gallery.
The black-and-white collection is a series of about 20 photographs, arranged on the wall in a deliberate composition that contrasts size and subject matter. Many of the images were shot near the U.S.-Mexico border, and reveal aspects of that landscape such as barbed-wire fences, sheep corrals, and a lone windmill.
Using the square shape of the photographs to concentrate the focal point in the center, each image has a symmetrical balance of light and dark areas that are blurred to suggest motion.
The visible grain, high contrast, and blurring of the images abstracts the subject matter and concentrates on the play of light and the textures of a desert landscape. The result is a series of warm, gentle images that present landscapes as dynamic environments rather than static postcards.
The color compositions are even more abstract, with extreme close-ups of unusual, brightly colored flowers. Using paired photographs of the same subject, the compositions seem to glow with the vibrant colors of the flowers, and reflect the characteristic symmetry of floral shapes. Ranging in size from four inches square to well over 20, these images are also arranged in a composition on the wall, complementing and echoing the colors and shapes.
Accompanying the show is a set of five extremely small portraits, created by placing both the camera and subject in complete darkness, using only a pen light for illumination. With the shutter open, the photographer used the light to trace the male and female subjects, giving them a surreal glow that captures motion and detail. One of the portraits is of a woman's face lit with a zigzag line that bisects her face into abstract areas, resulting in a startling re-examination of a standard subject.
Taken together, these three series reflect a unified and unique world view, taking traditional subject matter and exploring it in revealing ways. McCarthy turns the limitations of his equipment into an asset, shattering traditional expectations of art photography and the use of focus. While the show is very small and may seem extremely abstract to the average viewer, the beauty of the images and the expressive technique make this a series worth seeing.
McCarthy is a former UA student who now does freelance commercial and advertising work for local magazines including the Tucson Weekly and Arizona Lifestyle. He has also shown his work in the gallery of Hotel Congress and had several shows at the Downtown Performance Center.
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The Bero Gallery, 41 S. Sixth Ave., is open from Wednesday to Saturday 12-5 p.m., and during Downtown Saturday Night and Thursday Art Walks. Call 792-0313 for details.
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