Tuesday, January 8, 2013

reviewTurning the pages of this large-format, "coffee table" book reveals one gorgeous and haunting image after another. The 66 images are typically of flowers, mostly single, some in small groups, often with stems or leaves. Some are black and white, some color, mostly highlighted against a black background. In a majority, Kaye used a digital scanner in the dark room as a camera. A few are photograms in the tradition of Man Ray. A few are lumen prints, a process of laying the subject on black & white photo paper in the sun for long periods and then immersing" them only in fixer, which paradoxically produces brightly colored results. Among other things, this book shows the artist's patience, ingenuity, and creativity in exploring the limits of her medium.

There is no fault to be found in the abstract and beautiful images. There is some fault to be found in the book. It is well printed, but it lacks design. Each image appears squared in exactly the same size, page after page. The other problem has to do with the title and captions. A blurb on the back lists Kaye's intentions including, "the visual expression of that which cannot be expressed in words.” That's dead on, but the prose doesn't measure up to the implied challenge. Despite the title, I did not feel I learned anything about "the secret life of plants," whatever that may mean. The species of each plant is listed in the back, but each photo has a title, which usually suggest how the viewer should interpret the picture, e.g. "emerging" for an opening bud, "the skirt" for a vaguely skirt-shaped leaf, and "surrender' for a flower on a bent stem. For me these titles limit rather than enhance the meaning of the photos. On the other hand, I have no better suggestions.