Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Way to Look at It

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the Photo-eye bookstore and gallery in Santa Fe. Despite having family in New Mexico, I hadn't been there for about five years. While in Seattle now, and having lived in Phoenix for many years, a visit to the high desert of New Mexico is always a refreshing change of pace. It was a stunning experience, merely driving North to Santa Fe from Albuquerque. The landscape changed with snow making long, patterned streaks in the sand as the air became cool. It was a great contrast to the other sensation of the trip, that of a brief rain in Tucson that left the air smelling of rich earth, a smell only briefly manifested as the ground rapidly gives up its newfound water.

Since last in Santa Fe, the bookstore has moved a few doors down, now replaced by a full fledged Photo-eye gallery currently featuring nudes by Carla Van de Puttelaar. It's always a shock to see a fresh take on the nude. Given the genre's long history one would think it to be exhausted but occasionally someone will come along to prove the possibilities of the human form unending. The perfectly sized prints, at 11x17", showed young women from above, as we and they drifted in a state of half-sleep, their pale skin a contrast to the black backgrounds, every detail visible. The work reminded me of the completely different nudes of John Coplans who photographed his male, aging body after having already spent decades in art criticism. Coplans had no vanity to preserve, most interested in seeing how his hair, wrinkles, and sagged flesh might be turned into something new through radical cropping and the lush greys of a gelatin silver print. How typical our fascination with the erotics of youth and the simultaneous, yet ignored opposite of aging and death. It's funny how Coplans' nudes manage to be the greater playground for beauty.

Carla Van de Puttelaar:

John coplans: