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Laszlo Layton
Ottosen Gallery, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

Laszlo Layton, "Blue Morpho Butterfly (after Heade)" (2003), toned cyanotype with hand coloring

Continuing through January 10, 2016

An exemplary craftsman, Laszlo Layton not only photographs museum wildlife specimens using a large-format camera, he also prints his work using the finicky cyanotype method and then hand-paints the prints to achieve the desired delicacy and range of color. The result is an enchanting set of animal portraits — mostly winged creatures for this particular show — that recall 18th- and 19th-century natural history illustrations without being overly concerned about scientific accuracy.

Two of the larger prints in the show command particular attention: In “Blue Morpho Butterfly,” one wing is bright blue and the other fades into the background as the creature clings to a vine. In “Emu Egg,” the oval specimen is blown up in size, the better to reveal its crackly texture and blue-green allure. Still other prints lean toward anthropomorphism, beckoning us to see the pride of a brilliantly blue pinyon jay with a red berry in its beak, or the tenderness of a kiwi hovering over an egg. If it’s possible to be a 21st-century Pictorialist, Layton fits the description, using nostalgic processes to remind us of nature’s fragility and beauty.

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