Moments are fleeting and memories are never quite literal. Instead, they flicker as sensory recollections, lurking but never fully present as we carry them internally throughout our lives. It's these inner worlds that intrigue photographer Kathleen Nathan. Rather than focusing solely on the physical, she aims to make visible that which isn't.
In her exhibit Introspective / Retrospective, at The Studio at Sahara West Library, Nathan's explorations of time, memory, and internal spaces are presented in works created over the past three decades, in which she used photography to prolong the ephemeral, reconstruct internal imagery, and capture fading presence.
Never hazy in the fog of the past, her reconstructed memories are bold and distinctive. The archetypal figures and objects photographed on black grounds swim in contextual ambiguity, only a gesture or a tea cup alluding to tone and meaning. Faces are partially hidden by an object or edge of the photo, and the venerable works read as if visual haiku, stripped of chatter to deliver the essence. In some pieces, images are repeated as if they were a film strip of interconnected moments perpetually looping.
What few visual clues she offers become profound. A head of a toy rocking horse and the woman's arms wrapped around it float in darkness. At the other end of the work, which is broken into segments across the gallery wall, stands a woman in an apron. Different stages, different masks, different roles all appear from the pictorial dark. In one series, photographs that were taken over a two-year period from inside her Brooklyn apartment connect the interior mood with changing daylight as it shifts across the buildings outside her window. In another, she breaks apart and reforms elements of the landscape, combining images to create a more sensory experience. Botanicals projected onto photographic paper reveal the interior structures of the life, glowing.
"Maybe it's my obsession with the passage of time, hanging onto memory," she says one day, looking over some of the works in her Las Vegas home.
When a longtime friend died from an illness in her home, Nathan photographed her presence lingering in the rooms. There was the chair her friend had pulled out from the table, the clothes she'd hung on the closet door, and other gestures of a life. Unlike the other works in Introspective / Retrospective these images hang clipped to wires loosely mimicking a collection of photos and memories in her friend's home —those that were attached to her refrigerator door as artifacts of a life and all its fleeting moments.
Kathleen Nathan: Introspective / Retrospective
Feb. 22-April 21, The Studio at Sahara West Library; opening and artist reception, 5:30-7p, Feb. 22. 702-507-3630.