Fine art

Illuminated fractures

Meredith Garcia explores the art in nature’s monumentally slow sculpture

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The world is cast from an intricate matrix, the study of which photographer Meredith Garcia has spent her life capturing through different lenses.

Garcia’s eyes have explored the most intimate part of the human body: the brain. And today, though her eyes are trained upon the broader expanse of the world in which we live, what she sees is no less personal or profound.

Studio 238 at the Harwood Museum of Art will debut Garcia’s latest photographic works in an exhibition titled “Stone Free,” opening Friday (Dec.1). The photographer will be on-hand to meet and greet the audience at the opening reception from 2-4 p.m., a free event that is open to the public.

In her artist’s statement, Garcia says “Abstract black and white photography is my passion. As the Polish avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski once said, ‘Art is an individual way of seeing, rather than about rote reproduction of a collectively agreed-upon reality.’ This statement embodies the core philosophy of my photographic work.”

And it is clear that Garcia has an innate sense of the abstract, a true mark of her keen photographer’s eye. “Abstract art and abstract images are in so many places,” she said. “One just has to look.”

In “Stone Free,” Garcia gjves witness to the complex geological world of the American Southwest and focuses her camera upon the wild and wonderful formations that are unique to this area. It is immediately evident when viewing this gorgeously mounted collection, however, that Garcia’s intent is not to give you a travelogue of, say, the Grand Canyon or the Canyon de Chelly.

Rather, it’s a travelogue into your own imagination.

Zoomed in on the surface of a stone, weathered by the elements and cracked by the root of a tree, Garcia invites you to define the image as your own mind would like. “It’s about taking something that — on the macro level — everyone would recognize, but presenting it in a whole new context that allows the viewer the freedom to assign their own definition to the image,” she explained.

“I’m not going to tell anyone what it is; they’re going to tell me what it means to them.”

James Matthew Thomas, Collections Manager for the Harwood, calls “Stone Free” an “incredible collection” of black and white photographs, one he is excited to feature in Studio 238.

For those not familiar with the latest innovation at the Harwood, Studio 238 was conceptualized by the museum’s new executive director, Richard Tobin. Thomas worked closely with Tobin to bring this exciting addition to the Harwood’s revered collections. Since April, 2017, Studio 238 has offered a series of monthly pop-up exhibits that reflect the museum’s dedication to the expansion of the art world.

“In curating for Studio 238, we strive to feature works that are edgy, that push the boundaries of traditional paradigms of art, meaning that there should be both the exposure and opportunity [for art] to be seen in a different light.”

“Meredith’s new works are a perfect example of where Studio 238 wants to go. The photographs reveal much of her own story, which is so different, and it plays philosophically into her photographs,” he continued.

It’s hard to imagine a career more complex than that of a neural photomicrographer. These cutting-edge scientists, of which Garcia once counted herself in their ranks, are increasingly in the news as the tragedy of athletes falling victim to repetitive brain trauma becomes a prevalent social issue.

“I spent much of my neurobiological career taking black and white photomicrographs of the brain, arguably the most beautiful and complex structure in the known universe,” Garcia said. The science of studying slides of brain cells is deeply connected to our understanding of the brain’s structural strengths and weaknesses, both of which combine to create our humanity.

And it is here where the intersection of Garcia as scientist and artist converges. As she states, “If art consists of the emotional brain of the artist communicating with that of the viewer, then the reality is in the eye of the beholder.”

Garcia left her position as a tenured professor at the Tulane University School of Medicine in the post-Katrina years, retiring to Taos and swapping her microscope for a Nikon with a 50mm lens.

“Inspiration comes in different levels,” she observed. Having first played with digital photography, she said, “It was too easy and I found I was shooting images promiscuously, without really putting much thought into composition.” By 2010 Garcia had returned to her love of black and white photography.

“Stone Free” is a celebration of her reunion with the camera and the darkroom. Much like her former relationship with the microscope, Garcia continues to examine layers of the world and translating herself in accordance with them.

When asked about the name of the exhibition, Garcia said, “Of course it’s a reference to Jimi Hendrix’s song, and his message of being unleashed from context.” It’s a neat fit with her photographs’ content and the freedom they proffer.

“Stone Free” will be on exhibit through Dec. 29. If you are planning to attend the Lighting of Ledoux, this would be an excellent addition to your appreciation of the festivities.

The Harwood Museum of Art is located at 238 Ledoux St. For more information, call (575) 758-9826 or visit harwoodmuseum.org.

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