Monday, May 26, 2008

Alison Carey

I went to visit the Resurrection show last week to take one last look at the installation before it comes down at end of this week. Laura Russell was kind enough to give me several small catalogues illustrating some exhibits of the work of Alison Carey. Alisons work in the show consisted of two Ambrotypes taken of Dioramas she built depicting sea life during the Paleozoic(340-570 million years ago). It is singular work of unparalleled genius. The work reminded me of illustrations from a book I found at Powells years ago that I saw and fell in love with in our school library when I was about 7 years old. It was book of illustrations of prehistoric life and was very popular with the boys. I remember when a friend of mine was lucky enough to find it on the shelves and checked it out and when it was time for him to turn it in I followed him in to the library and pounced on it before anyone else could claim it. The book was called Prehistoric Animals by Dr. Joseph Augusta and the illustrations were by Zdenek Burian. The book had text describing life from the Paleozoic to the Tertiary (55 million years ago) was followed by a series of beautiful plates in color and in sepia tones of ancient landscapes that I would lose myself in. The photographs of Alison Carey have a similar effect on me transporting me to a window with a view to another world. The Ambrotype process that uses glass plates that are covered with a photo emulsion create a negative that is then turned positive by placing a black velvet backing to the other side of the glass so light can no longer pass through it. The glass gives the image a translucent and glimmering quality that seems to create an additional dimension and depth to the image. She literally builds her own worlds from clay of landscapes that are ancient based on fossil evidence and fantasy landscapes that spring from her own imagination. Her ancient landscapes imagined and then photographed as if by some Victorian time traveller are some of the most beautiful and strange work I have ever seen.


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