The obsidian-laden Glass
Mountain in California’s Inyo National Forest is the site and the inspiration
new show at Stephen Wirtz Gallery
. The exhibition, “Glass
”, is McFarland’s
assemblage of photographs of light-strewn landscapes, mystifying natural oases,
and dark recesses. Unlike traditional landscape photographers, however,
McFarland is known for his deception; many of his most moving and fantastic
works are actually collages—adept composites of the artist’s own photography
and found and archival images. For “Glass Mountains”, McFarland used
photographs taken at Glass Mountain as a point of departure to create a body of
work that at once pays homage to the natural world and explores themes of
ephemerality, transparency, and veracity.
A California native,
McFarland cites changes in landscape and human interactions with nature as a
major inspiration. For his “Dark Pictures” series, several of which are
included in this show, he seeks out the wild and captures it in his photographs
for viewers to experience like a diorama at a natural history museum, where
time and light are frozen. In one such work, Untitled (Branches), the
work is so dark that the viewer is transported into a moonlit forest, squinting
to be able to properly perceive the rocky, tree-filled composition.
Stunning snapshots of
nature are interspersed through the showing, including misty waterfalls,
snowswept mountain ranges, and a picturesque aspen-lined forest, where trees
appear to be in the process of falling. In reference to his earlier “Pictures
of the Earth” series, McFarland explained
, “it’s all constructed, but it’s all
photographs of things that are possible.” In “Glass Mountains,” he continues
this dialogue between constructed and authentic images, offering examples of
both. McFarland asks the viewer to differentiate between what the eye sees and
what the camera sees, as in Echo
, where the dramatic clouds might
normally signify a natural disaster in-the-process; but, knowing McFarland’s
practices, it is more likely the product of careful craft.
Offering a variety of
images and media techniques, the show itself is a landscape, spanning
McFarland’s career and creating a poetic, narrative dialogue, parallel to the
one so often found in his individual works.
“Glass Mountains” on view
at Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco, through Dec. 21.