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Lori Vrba
Catherine Couturier Gallery, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant


Lori Vrba, "Luna," toned gelatin silver print, 15 x 15"

Continuing through August 31, 2015

Deeply personal photographs and assemblages provide a tantalizing glimpse into Lori Vrba’s life in North Carolina. The show bears the same name as a recently published monograph of her work, “The Moth Wing Diaries.” All of the photographs were taken in her backyard, but rather than domesticity they convey a profound connection with nature. Vrba shoots black and white film with a Hasselblad camera and develops them herself, toning them to a sepia color that gives them a 19th-century look. Digital manipulation plays no role in her work. Sensitive portraits of adolescents dressed in white or gauzy fabrics are posed with moths, butterflies, feathers, eggs, nests, bird cages, jars, and other evocative objects presented with carefully manipulated lighting. Her effective use of depth of field focuses attention on the foreground, while the background quickly dissolves into abstraction. The children are often photographed from the back or with their eyes closed or cropped out, seemingly lost in reveries induced by their serene surroundings.

Vrba, who is white, grew up in an east Texas town known for its racism and always felt like an outsider. She was not exposed to art or photography as a child but remembers discovering a cache of old family photos that fascinated her, particularly as she never met any of the people. After she had her children she became obsessed with documenting her life as a mother. “Photography for me has really been about personal exploration and expression since day one,” she said.

The artist also creates appealing assemblages, using fragments of photographs and what she refers to as “curious oddities” to create memory boxes and other sculptures. Like her photographs, they tell a story through juxtaposed figures and objects such as old book covers, vintage clothing, oddly shaped pieces of metal, insects, test tubes and other found objects. Besides box constructions, she may suspend photographs from a piece of metal grating or an antler, or arrange them on a shelf. Both bodies of work convey a sense of wonder about the world, capturing what she describes as “a heightened awareness” of everything around her. This is an emotionally charged body of work that is both powerful and intimate.

Catherine Couturier Gallery

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