When asked to describe her work in one word, photographer Lori Vrba is ready with an answer. “The word is always personal,” she says. And it’s easy enough to understand why. Drawing on rich visuals from her own life, self-taught Vrba produces black-and-white photographs and photo-based assemblage works that feature the poised forms and faces of her children, friends, and family as well as the wildlife and lush forests of her own North Carolina backyard. After exhibiting across the country and around the world, this native Texan returns home to celebrate the publication of her first monograph with an exhibition by the same name: “The Moth Wing Diaries.”
Appearing at the Catherine Couturier Gallery June 6 – August 31, Vrba’s “Diaries” is a culmination of the artist’s unapologetic, on-going explorations of femininity and the Southern landscape. But the most precious elements of the artist’s life—her home, family, and the natural elements surrounding them—are not simply captured on film. Instead, they typically appear at Vrba’s direction in mysterious narrative moments, candidly cast to represent themes such as youth, strength, wildness, or vulnerability.
In Vrba’s photograph Repose, a young girl faces the camera; her eyes close and her head tilts slightly. The untamed wisps of her wavy hair are caught in the light, and they reach out like Medusa’s curved serpent tendrils. Other photos showcase Vrba’s unique technique of retro photo-manipulation, achieved by photographing the artist’s prints with the layered addition of objects and materials resting on top or around them. Stage Flight, for instance, features a young child standing on a wooden stage in the forest and holding massive (yet perfectly positioned) wing-like feathers to impossible and pleasing effect. This process of re-imagining the image is taken a step further in the artist’s recent assemblage works, which feature Vrba’s own prints, as well as found objects, and are often displayed in shadowbox-like arrangements.
Although Vrba’s works often include whimsical and slightly surreal elements, the artist notes, “I really think of all of my work as a narrative that is telling the story of me.” Yet, rather than being a literal journal, “The Moth Wing Diaries” may function better in the abstract, revealing, as Vrba puts it, “metaphors about strength and fragility at the same time.”
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“The Moth Wing Diaries” runs June 6 – August 31, 2015 at Catherine Couturier Gallery, 2635 Colquitt. Tuesday through Saturday, 10am-5pm. Two opening receptions and book signings will be held: a general opening on Saturday, June 6 from 5-7 p.m. and an ArtHouston opening on Saturday, July 11 from 5-7 p.m. For more information, visit www.catherinecouturier.com.