Close Encounters | Art Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Life » Art Review

Close Encounters

Art Review


Published April 20, 2005 at 4:00 a.m.

EXHIBIT: "Flowers of Spring" by Reid Crosby, through May 10, and "Pig Series" by John Youngblood, through April 30, Enigma Gallery, Essex.

ARTWORK: "Daisy" by Reid Crosby

Pigs and flowers are seldom paired, but they coexist nicely at Essex's Enigma Gallery this month in two, one-person photography exhibitions. "Flowers of Spring" is a collection of eight color photos by Vermont artist Reid Crosby, and the aptly entitled "Pig Series" consists of seven black-and-white shots of swine by Californian John Youngblood. Neither collection is odoriferous, yet both exude a sweet formality as Crosby and Youngblood craft sophisticated compositions out of light, line, form and visual textures.

Naturally, flowers are a perfect subject for color photography, but Crosby does more than bedazzle with hue. His shots are all close-ups. In "Day Lily," the leafy green negative space that surrounds the little orange petals gives the image dramatic depth. "Daisy," on the other hand, focuses on the patterns within the flower. Its yellow seeds are arranged contrapuntally in layers of clockwise and counterclockwise spirals -- an example of one of nature's most complex forms of patterning.

Whereas daisies have complicated seed structures, the orchids here have complex names. "Orchid (VI) Cattleya Angel Bells 'Susie'" captures pale purple flowers on a white background, while "Orchid (II) Dendrobium Dawn Maree 'GJW'" is a deeper shade of lavender. Regardless of hue, all of Crosby's orchids are equally fleshy and translucent. "Orchid (IV) Phalaenopsis Carmella's Pixie" has salmon-colored petals with fiery red veins snaking through them.

Youngblood's oeuvre of visual paeans to the porcine have a point of view similar to Crosby's floral subjects. The pigs are photographed up close so that the intricate beauties of their plump forms fill each picture plane.

"Body Line Pigs" is a sweeping diagonal that runs from lower left to upper right, focusing on a pair of pigs at rest. The upper pig has large freckles beneath its bristly hair, and the lower pig has a finer fuzz of silvery white. As is often the case with nudes, it's hard to identify the actual anatomy of either abutting animal.

"Pig -- Black Bodies With White" has a similar composition, but the pigs are, as the title says, black-and-white. Youngblood's series is certainly a quirky look at pigs, yet it's seriously composed as well. Black-and-white images of black and white pigs allow engaging contrasts of value, and Youngblood is adept at rooting out the abstract possibilities of his subjects. There is a central axis of white fur, bounded by gray bands and black fields, at the edges of "Pig -- Black Bodies With White."

"Two Black, Two White Pigs" is Youngblood's only vertical composition on display. It's a relatively distant shot capturing four slumbering pigs that are virtually interwoven on a bed of sawdust. The darkest values, and blackest pigs, are clustered in the foreground.

"Pig Tail" focuses on a delicately curled circle at the aft end of the swine. The tail is in profile at lower left, atop the crest of a larger semi-circle. The flank of a sty mate creates a deep shadow behind the foreground pig.

"Pig Snout" is also replete with circles. The round snout pokes out between two wooden rails of fence, and the snout's two little nostrils are within its circular form. This is no casual barnyard snapshot. As with all of Youngblood's images, this one is in high relief, with a distinct light providing high contrasts. It seems likely that he brought a lighting rig as well as his camera to the pig farm.

Timed to coincide with mud season, the Enigma's companion shows are a breath of fresh air.