Katherine Bauer: Of the Quarry Land at Microscope Gallery

By Jean Dykstra, July 25, 2016

Katherine Bauer, Waterfolds no. 2 (left) and Waterfolds no. 3, 2016. Courtesy the artist

An enthusiast of projects dealing with mythology, folklore, and the natural world, Katherine Bauer continues that exploration in her latest multidisciplinary installation, Of the Quarry Land, on view at Microscope Gallery through August 7. She focuses on industrial quarries located in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York, which represent, to the artist, both consecrated ancestral places and sites of nature’s destruction by humans.

Bauer works in a variety of formats: in one series, she collects a number of natural elements, such as twigs, leaves, flowers, stones, and feathers, and arranges them on photosensitive paper, which she exposes to moonlight to create black-and-white photograms. In other series of color images, she photographs nude models submerged in water, creating nearly abstract images of indistinct bodies in water or surrounded by vegetation. The centerpiece of the exhibition consists of three silent films shot with an old 16mm camera, each about three minutes long, which offer, through close-ups and saturated colors, a sensory and sometimes abstract vision of the quarry, encompassing rocks, plants, land, water, and digging equipment. Titled “Cenote Dissolve” (a cenote is a natural pit filled with water), these short movies use the charm of old negative scratches and impurities to appear slightly shaky — stylized in the manner of found footage.

Bauer expresses her affection for the quarry and its state of abandonment through romantic visual metaphors. In one of the films, the image of water pouring from a rock face is merged, through a double exposure, with a half-moon and a fragment of a drilling rig. The film goes beyond the realm of physical experience, slipping into the mythical.