The deep, dark, almost tactile blackness covering Brian Forrest’s photographs is primordial. At first glance the extensive darkness they offer seems like a blind wall; dense, solid and impenetrable. Like human eyes becoming attuned to seeing in the dark, however, the images slowly adjust to a lingering gaze; shapes emerge and forests appear. Not the shadow dappled forests of holidays spent camping out, but the mythic, haunted forests of ancient human memory.
It is the negligible silver twilight imbedded in these photograph’s blackness that gives the images their potency. It’s a pale grey light on the verge of winking out as it scarcely illuminates the bare limbs of trees, round naked rocks, vines, brambles and impenetrable thickets within each large lightjet print. By virtue of that phantom light we make our way into the image; lured by our lust for illumination the eye is drawn further and further into the dark woods. It is a visual adventure, recalling ancient tales of danger lurking just outside the campfire and quests in enchanted or forbidden woods. So it comes as something of a shock to read the mundane names of these places: “Rivas Canyon,” “Hondo Canyon,” or “Sullivan Canyon”.
Amazingly, the canyons that make up Forrest’s dark woods are the nearby watersheds and gullies of Southern California hillsides. It’s a fragmented landscape largely forgotten. Yet in his computer-blackened images these tattered remnants of nature shift from what can be seen by day to a sight more akin to the darkness of the human psyche. In that dark, primal, archetypal reality nature becomes as a mythic passageway rippling with uncertainty about what cannot be seen and the alert, utter stillness of deep night.
Rose-Lynn Fisher’s glowing black and white photographs are no less a visual journey, but take the route of amazement. Her images are radiant, incredibly sharp, very high contrast photographs of the world beyond what can be seen with the naked eye. Using a camera attached to a scanning electron microscope she zooms in on the tiny body of a gold dusted honeybee. That thin layer of gold, only a couple of atoms thick, functions to increase the conductivity of the creature’s surface rather than color it, and gives her high powered magnifications a stunning intensity.
In these archival pigment prints we see the bee with a clarity we could never experience unaided. This is not the generic buzzing creature with a banded tail section who wings from flower to flower in the garden, but something else entirely. Something so beautiful, so amazingly complex and completely alien that we might be compelled to reconsider what we think we know about reality itself, not just honeybees.
Fisher dives into the surface of the bee with increasing magnifications. Deeper and deeper we seem to move; from a close-up of the almost furry tufts of thick hair surrounding its head and neck to the enlarged honeycombed perfection of its eyes. At 200x scale the eyes’ network of compound lenses reads like massive armor plating on a dark planet seen from the depths of space. Erratic white hairs emerge from that smooth, linear surface like bright searchlights stabbing into the inky black of space.
As the artist moves across the body she keeps stepping in closer, giving us the perfect geometry of the bee’s wing vein at 800x scale or the sharp, cactus spine hairs on the antenna at 3300x. From these shifts in focus it is quickly apparent that the inherent order within this little insect is profound, perhaps unending. That realization is humbling. What does it mean if the entire physical world, not just what we routinely see of it, is so elegantly constructed, complete and perfectly formed, right down to and including the molecular level?