Kate Breakey Moves in an Interesting Direction with "Painted Light"

Kate Breakey's Las Sombras installation.
Kate Breakey's Las Sombras installation.
Courtesy McMurtrey Gallery

I've never been a huge fan of Kate Breakey's work. Breakey's stock-in-trade is painstakingly hand-painted photographs of cut flowers and dead birds. The "deadness" of both is a particular area of interest to the artist. The results are colorful, treacly and crowd-pleasingly decorative.

But in a wall installation of new work at McMurtrey Gallery, Breakey has taken her death fixation in a much more interesting direction.

She's making photograms by taking plants and insects and roadkill, laying them on light-sensitive paper and then exposing it.  The results are soft-edged, sepia-toned silhouettes against black backgrounds: ferns, tarantulas, birds, coyotes and snakes. (The snakes have an especially nice graphic quality.)

The artist presents the variously sized images in an assortment of vintage frames - big for coyote, small for tarantula. Clustered together salon-style on one wall, the works are incredibly poignant and evocative, presenting death like a Victorian collection. The viewer is left to imagine the details.

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This straightforward approach elegantly conveys the emotion Breakey has been trying for in her far more involved and overwrought painted photographs.

The show runs through April 23 at McMurtrey Gallery, 3508 Lake Street. For information, call 713-523-8238.

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