Ten­der is the night

Pasatiempo - - ADVERTISEMENT - Michael Abatemarco

In Gar­den­ing at Night, on ex­hibit at Photo- eye Gallery, Maine- based pho­tog­ra­pher Cig Harvey cap­tures themes of na­ture, fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, and time through a lens of mag­i­cal re­al­ism. Harvey ren­ders each dream­like im­age in sat­u­rated colors and each mo­ment, whether can­did or staged, with sym­bolic weight. The ex­hibit in­cludes photos as well as an­i­mated pho­to­graphs in new me­dia. The show is on view through June 4. On the cover is Harvey’s chro­mogenic prinnt, Wolfhound, Rock­land, Maine, 2012; cour­tesy Photo- eye Gallery.

Some­times a pho­to­graphic sub­ject presents it­self when the pho­tog­ra­pher isn’t look­ing for it: a glimpse of youth be­hind a wind­shield, seen through the re­flected im­agery of trees and dap­pled sun­light; a dog at rest among gar­den pop­pies. At other times, a com­po­si­tion is con­structed, staged with props, light­ing, and an ar­range­ment of fig­ures and ob­jects like a tableau. Still lifes and por­traits are some­times closely re­lated, the eye of the pho­tog­ra­pher at­tuned to see them as a cam­era sees them — with fetishis­tic at­trac­tion, drawn by color, tex­ture, a lin­ear curve, a lovely face, a stately ob­ject. Pho­tog­ra­pher Cig Harvey can take any sight, whether can­did or st aged, and i nvest it with mo­men­tum, not just cap­tur­ing what takes place in front of the lens, but also grasp­ing a deeper sense of nar­ra­tive or mean­ing. Her work, on view at Photo- eye Gallery in the ex­hibit Gar­den­ing at Night, pulls from dif­fer­ent gen­res and styles — in­clud­ing com­posed por­trai­ture and nar­ra­tive scenes, still-life and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy — and her photos evoke a glam­our and a mys­tique. “I’ve al­ways been drawn to mag­i­cal re­al­ism in lit­er­a­ture, ever since I was a teenager,” Harvey told

Pasatiempo. “I re­ally seek out that in my pho­to­graphs. I’m al­ways wait­ing for some­thing that ex­ists in the real world but is some­what sur­pris­ing or that makes me gasp. I’m spend­ing ev­ery day try­ing to find that around me. If I don’t find it, then I look for ways I can help make it.”

Mag­i­cal re­al­ism takes as a given the pres­ence of magic in the ev­ery­day, ra­tio­nal world. Harvey isn’t a fan­ta­sist. There is noth­ing out of the or­di­nary in the sub­jects she shoots, but the magic is there in the at­mo­spheric sur­round­ings of a cen­tral fig­ure, in a ges­ture, or in the ob­ject a fig­ure holds in his or her hand. Devin and the Fire­flies (2010), for in­stance, de­picts a girl in a field of fire­flies, hold­ing in her hands a small bird­house, which be­comes a kind of mys­tery ob­ject in the con­text of the rest of the com­po­si­tion. “I’m in­ter­ested in this idea of ob­jects with mean­ing, of sort of hold­ing a po­tency,” she said. “Some­times a gaze will be the thing that stops me, and other times there’ll be an ob­ject that just haunts me, whether it’s the color or its look or its patina or some­thing, and I know I have to take a pic­ture with it.”

Gar­den­ing at Night is the Maine-based pho­tog­ra­pher’s first ex­hibit at Photo-eye, but she’s been vis­it­ing reg­u­larly for a decade or more to teach an an­nual class at the Santa Fe Pho­to­graphic Work­shops. “I al­ways take my stu­dents to the Photo-eye Book­store on the Fri­day af­ter­noon of the class.” Photo- eye is a good­place to find a copy of her book, also called

Gar­den­ing at Night, which is tem­po­rar­ily sold out on Ama­zon. The ex­hi­bi­tion draws from the same se­ries as the book. “The ti­tle came from a piece of writ­ing. I’ve al­ways writ­ten, and Gar­den­ing at Night is a book of pho­to­graphs and text. It’s se­quenced both through sea­sons and through the ages of my daugh­ter. It came from writ­ing about th­ese Ja­panese bee­tles that were eat­ing my roses.”

“‘ The Ja­panese bee­tles came again that night, mak­ing and tak­ing their cir­cles of ev­i­dence,’ ” she read from the book. “‘By mid­dle sum­mer, more holes than leaves, and by Septem­ber, stripped bare, just roses, stems and thorns. Each morn­ing she stood in the soil count­ing the holes, a tally of her fail­ures as a mother. She didn’t like that they came when she was sleep­ing. ‘I need to gar­den at night,’ she said aloud.’ ” Such text pro­vides a sense of nar­ra­tive for the body of work but story is also present in the images. For ex­am­ple, The Ma­gi­cian’s Hat (2014) shows a child’s hands hold­ing a vel­vet top hat aloft, as if he’s show­ing it off be­fore pulling out a rab­bit, or maybe dis­cov­er­ing it for the first time as a cu­ri­ous ob­ject among a par­ent’s old things. For Harvey, Gar­den­ing at Night has many ref­er­ences, but cre­at­ing her home in Maine, her fam­ily, and hav­ing a child are ma­jor themes. “The gar­den be­came this me­taphor for in­se­cu­ri­ties about moth­er­hood, but it’s also a lit­eral story about th­ese bee­tles that kept com­ing at night.”

An­other theme that runs through the work is that of re­la­tion­ships. Of­ten, the fig­ures in her images are peo­ple she knows in­ti­mately: her daugh­ter Scout, for

in­stance, who ap­pears in sev­eral photos — in­clud­ing in one as Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood, al­most hid­den from view un­der a red cape and sit­ting on a deep-red chair.

“An­other theme is this el­e­ment of time. So many of the pic­tures are sort of try­ing to stop time and slow time down, grasp­ing at time and its fleet­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics.” In­cluded in the ex­hibit are three dig­i­tally an­i­mated pho­to­graphs made us­ing im­agery from her photo shoots. “By slow­ing down one el­e­ment, they be­come hyp­notic and mes­mer­iz­ing and sur­prise in the way they sort of sus­pend time,” she said. The gallery is show­ing an­i­mated ver­sions of Spring Tree in Fog (2012), the wa­ter in the im­age gen­tly rip­pling; The Hot Tub, Syd, with steam slowly drifting up­wards; and a third show­ing a young woman among fall­ing or­chard blos­soms. Th­ese an­i­mated images, all de­rived from her pho­to­graphs, have still com­po­nents that con­trast with the an­i­ma­tion, as though the fig­ures are frozen in time while the world around them goes on. “The most im­por­tant thing is that they don’t just ex­ist as web pieces,” Harvey said. “They ex­ist as ac­tual ob­jects and so they are framed along­side the pho­to­graphs. Then you start ques­tion­ing what’s still and what’s mov­ing in the images. They work at any point dur­ing the day, but they re­ally come into their own when it starts get­ting darker.”

Work­ing with dif­fer­ent meth­ods to pro­cure an im­age helps to keep her prac­tice fresh, she said, mak­ing her a stronger pho­tog­ra­pher. “It goes back to that idea that if I’m not find­ing magic in the world, if magic isn’t pre­sent­ing it­self to me when I’m driv­ing to FedEx, then I’ll go home and make it.”


Cig Harvey: Gar­den­ing at Night Ex­hibit through June 4 Photo- eye Gallery, 541 S. Guadalupe St., 505-988-5159


Ra­nun­cu­lus & the Felt Tip Marks, 2013, chro­mogenic print

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