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In the ex­hibit Fire Sea­son, part of the mu­seum’s year­long Fo­cus on Pho­tog­ra­phy, which be­gan in 2014, a hand­ful of Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­phers — Jane Ful­ton Alt, Pa­tri­cia Gala­gan, Greg Mac Gre­gor, Philip Met­calf, and Larry Sch­warm — cap­ture the dra­matic changes wild­fires and con­trolled burns bring to the en­vi­ron­ment. Some fo­cus on fire’s more de­struc­tive ca­pac­i­ties, while oth­ers look to its role in the re­gen­er­a­tion of forests, but each presents selec­tions that record the dan­ger­ous beauty of this most al­lur­ing of el­e­ments.

Ful­ton Alt’s im­agery of con­trolled burns on the prairie — haunt­ing smoke-filled land­scapes — take on as­pects of min­i­mal­ist, ab­stract com­po­si­tions. Gala­gan’s pho­to­graphs doc­u­ment new growth in ar­eas rav­aged by wild­fires; a car­pet of green un­der­growth sur­rounds the charred rem­nants of what was once a forested land­scape, and bone-like trunks of as­pens ap­pear from be­neath peel­ing skins of singed bark. In a photo by Mac Gre­gor, the dra­matic plume from a fire in the Pe­cos wilder­ness soars high above the San­gre de Cris­tos, the Rail Run­ner rest­ing at a sta­tion in the fore­ground. The image is a re­minder of the prox­im­ity of civ­i­liza­tion to the might of na­ture’s wrath. Met­calf ’s Fire Ghosts se­ries cap­tures a sense of the ex­tent of fire dev­as­ta­tion in stark black-and-white pho­to­graphs: the scorched trunks of trees fill the melan­choly land­scape in a pat­tern of ver­ti­cal lines, ap­pear­ing as though drawn or etched by hand. Sch­warm’s dra­matic shots of a land aflame cap­ture the awe-inspiring, other-worldly beauty and power of fire. Run­ning con­cur­rently with Fire Sea­son are two other

Fo­cus on Pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hibits: To Feel Less Alone: Gay Block, a Por­trait and Photo Lab, a re­volv­ing show that ex­plores the tech­niques and tools of his­toric and al­ter­na­tive forms of pho­tog­ra­phy. — M.A. “Fire Sea­son” runs through Sun­day, July 26, at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art, 107 W. Palace Ave., 505-476-5072. En­trance is by mu­seum ad­mis­sion.

Greg Mac Gre­gor: Tres La­gu­nas Fire, 2013, pig­ment print

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