With this exhibit, Karla Berger may technically qualifies as a nature photographer– at least by the very general measure that she takes pictures of little bits from nature: flowers, thistles, stems.
But as one quick turn through her exhibit at Higher Grounds, “Mother Nature Double-Crossed,” certainly demonstrates, her interest really doesn’t lie in the rendering of Nature as we see it. Berger seems much more interested in manipulating her images long after she’s returned from the fields, and this manipulation, rather than the subject matter, is the star of the show.
In Berger’s hands, flowers are doubled, mutated, cloned, and conjoined. They are folded over horizontal and vertical lines, and left with doubled heads like a cell frozen just as it’s about to multiply. This is all just a complicated way of saying that Berger takes a photograph of something small, like a flower, and grafts it onto its mirror image, sometimes once, sometimes multiple times, but usually with the aim of creating a pattern.
The resulting work is almost tyrannically symmetrical. Nearly every single image maintains a centered horizontal or vertical line around which the image is bent. Those that don’t follow that pattern revolve around an axis and expand out from the center, in something like a kaleidoscope view.
Needless to say, despite her interest in the fragmentation of nature images, Berger really doesn’t offer anything in the way of novel composition. As for the source images themselves, they come lacking in detail which makes them appear particularly flat, almost like illustrations. Berger isn’t particularly skilled in catching the nuance in, say, the folds of a petal, nor does she seem interested, either.
Most every image keeps the source object intact. That is, a flower remains recognizable as such. Only a few of the pieces venture into abstract territory. A field of needle-thin striped surfaces in one instance, and colorful, almost hard-candy-like, glossy surfaces in another are given the clone treatment. These are more interesting, at least conceptually, than the rows of doubled blossoms. But aren’t nearly as pretty.
Karla Berger’s “Mother Nature Double-Crossed,” an exhibit of color photography, runs through the end of May at Higher Grounds. 112 Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-8743