The Austin Chronicle

Piece of Work

By Erina Duganne, March 28, 2003, Arts


Photographs by Catherine McMillan

in "Wander, Explore & Find"

through March 28 at the Gallery at Guadalupe Arts Center

Essentially two projects that Catherine McMillan merged into one, "Luminarias" consists of a series of paired photographs: one depicting a dress and the other a monarch butterfly. Although simple in conception, the result is anything but ordinary.

What makes this series so intriguing is the virtual absence of human life. The only evidence of the body is the sliver of a child's hand, barely visible in several of the butterfly photographs. Yet while the human body is literally absent, its presence is felt twicefold, particularly in the ethereal dresses, which seem alive despite their emptiness.

Floating weightlessly through space, each of the dresses provides a startling contrast to the butterfly photographs underneath them. Photographed with infrared film from a crop of butterflies that McMillan raised in her own home, the butterfly, in many of the photographs, almost appears drawn. The blurriness of these butterflies adds to the work's uncertainty. One wants to find a connection between the dresses and butterflies, but none readily appears. Instead, both the dresses and butterflies just hover in space, drawing you in by their sheer physical beauty. Practically casting a spell, the light in these photographs also serves to transport the viewer to another realm, a place filled with loss, instability, and unfilled desires. In short, they are like memories, always present yet always beyond grasp. While these images will haunt you, don't linger in seeing them; they are on view for just a short while longer in the Gallery at Guadalupe Arts Center.

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