Christy Lee Rogers's "Within the Invisible Space" Fuses the Light and Color of Hawaii Through Underwater Photography

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We’re all formed by our experiences, and artist/filmmaker/poet/lyricist Christy Lee Rogers has channeled the essence of her island home of Kailua, Hawaii, to create new photographs inspired by light, tropical flora and water.

Her technique of posing models in darkened swimming pools, then amplifying the mise en scène with props, fabric, halogen lighting and subtle movement, has resulted in colorful, ethereal images that remind the viewer of springtime and birth, with subtle references to the opulent costumes and pigments of the Baroque era.

In her “Within the Invisible Space” exhibit at Laura Rathe Fine Art, Rogers – who relies on refraction to blur her painterly images as she photographs from above – includes images from her more recent “Celestial Bodies” and “A Quarter of a Million Miles” series, demonstrating an evolution from earlier works.

Images in the “Siren” and “Odyssey” series from 2009-2011 featured clearly defined figures against a background of midnight black, weightless in the water and with their dance-like movements frozen in time.

New works are much more layered and textured, with bright colors dominating the watery scenes and with her models’ features predominantly blurred, save for the occasional arm, leg, belly button or head recognizable.

In recent years, Rogers has experimented with copying her images and presenting the second half reflected horizontally or into quarters with a vertical flip. She offers up one of these in the show, the quite sensual Forces Trapped in Yearning, inviting the viewer to “go to the light” through the fleshy red portal.

With the exception of two images that dabble in earth tones, Supernova and Stardust, the remaining images are colorful and otherworldly, with the bubbles from the models’ exhalations and the bright white stripes of refracted light adding texture and nuance.

Rogers, who chooses artists, musicians, dancers and friends as her underwater models, is said to spend from three to five hours on a typical photo shoot. Her final compositions, in which the fabrics, ribbons, flowers, masks and props are bunched together in the frame, with occasional pops of limbs and faces, each tell a story. In some, the models face away; in others, they are so entwined that it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. With the exception of a few flowers, the props are harder to define in this series, though the fabric produces a vegetal quality as it floats in the water.

This is the 11th group show and fourth solo/dual show for Rogers at Laura Rathe Fine Art (Houston and Dallas) since 2010. Rogers is represented internationally in Shanghai, Paris, Mexico City, Lisbon and the United Kingdom, as well as domestically in Cincinnati, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas.

It’s a lovely exhibit, only lacking for the wish that her videos could also be shown. Seeing her models dance and flow through the murky depths, moving in and out of focus, is quite magical, though the videos are viewable on her website at christyleerogers.com/video.

“Within the Invisible Space” continues through August 20 at Laura Rathe Fine Art, 2707 Colquitt, open Tuesdays to Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 713-527-7700, laurarathe.com. Free.

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