While the current photography exhibit at the Tulla Booth Gallery in Sag Harbor features Booth’s luscious flowers and Stephen Wilkes’ “Day to Night” series, the resulting images complement each other in various and subtle ways. Large blossoms by Booth have always been her signature and have always been a pleasure to see. The present photographs are no exception. Whether they are archival giclee prints or pigmented ink print, these images are big, bold and buoyant, apparently living, breathing flowers that we can almost touch and smell.
The colors are extraordinary as well in such works as “Blue Hydranga,” “French Poppies” and “Black Holyhock.” In fact, the combination of color, composition and space evokes a sense of Surrealism or heightened reality, unusual as that may seem. What’s also unique is the feeling that time has stopped. Booth has clearly captured her flowers in a single moment of glory.
Wilkes’ photographs also capture time when day and night are juxtaposed in a single image. The result is a hint of Surrealism, too—the combining of what amounts to incongruent pieces of actuality. Even so, there are other similarities between Booth’s flowers and Wilkes’ scenes. For example, the senses play a large part in experiencing the works. In Wilkes’ Manhattan venues, we can hear the sounds of people having fun in Central Park, Coney Island and Madison Square Park. We can even smell and taste the food from vendors, all from a bird’s–eye perspective. Although the photographer puts us at a distance, we still feel as if we are in the middle of the action. (Booth’s opposing technique of close-ups has the same effect.)
However, Wilkes’ use of time is clearly his own device, which can’t be compared to Booth’s flowers. Because photography is a still image, going from day to night has limited options, unlike film where dissolves or fades can show transitions. But Wilkes can convey both day and night within a single image, with a dividing line literally marking the difference.
The day/night dichotomy has several effects that grab our attention. First, we notice the contrasts: shadows at night, with some objects almost disappearing before our eyes.
Then we notice that the day scenes do not repeat the ones at night. They illuminate another part of the location. In “Coney Island,” the amusement park is lit up at night; the nearby beach and boardwalk shine brightly with the sun’s rays.
Where do spectators place themselves in this case? Do they imagine they are on the beach during the day or on a Ferris wheel at night? This critic would have it both ways, walking from the ocean to the amusement park, taking in the whole experience at once.
This is time travel at its best.
Gallery Gems will be on view at the Tulla Booth Gallery in Sag Harbor (66 Main Street) until January 31. Call 631-725-3100 for information and hours.