Kathryn Dunlevie: The Taxidermist’s Imaginarium
Catalog Foreward by Geri Hooks, President, Hooks-Epstein Galleries
Hooks-Epstein Galleries, February, 2018.
Since the first photograph was made in 1826 in eastern France, people have been trying to capture that single moment that most accurately depicts the “real,” the “natural.” Within that “real,” however, is the understanding that the final image is only a representation of a moment; that the real further exists outside the limits of the camera viewfinder and the natural is often staged. People are moving, things are happening…real life exists. The idea of a staged image, though, is nothing new and has existed for centuries in paintings and museum dioramas. We inherently know those things aren’t truly real; we know the painting of Napoleon on a rearing horse in the middle of a battlefield isn’t real, we know the static buffalo in the 120 square foot glass-faced museum enclosure isn’t real, but we still accept them as such.
Speed forward nearly two centuries and it is now even more difficult to discern between the real and unreal, the natural and unnatural. Even traditional notions of the concept of photography have evolved to the point where cameras may no longer be needed and computers are the norm. Such photographers as Kathryn Dunlevie, though, still maintain a foot in each realm. In her latest visions of the real, Kathryn utilizes normal/traditional photographic means and subjects, but, in the end combines seemingly disparate parts into seamless wholes. She returns the diorama buffalo to the real in big sky surroundings. She comments on global warming by juxtaposing a polar bear in a desert diorama with one in an arctic setting, a Yak strolling Los Angeles streets, and a seven-point buck in the hills directly above a crowded urban area. And then there is the moose in the airport.
We know this isn’t real, but we still accept it as such because we know the parts as true and then so must be the whole. This has always been the trick and trove of photography and Kathryn Dunlevie has always been able to make us believe in her real.