Art Review

Art Beat

The current show at the Camera Obscura Gallery, Christopher Burkett: Intimations of Paradise, is a surprise, because all of the photographs are in color. Even more surprising is that unlike most color photos, these are really good.

Since a great majority of the serious work in fine-art photography is in traditional black-and-white, color is the orphan child of the medium. It has many pitfalls, not the least of which is the unfortunate propensity for color photos to resemble those ubiquitous photographic placemats that are typically seen in low-end diners and pancake houses. This is especially the case when the subject matter of the photos is nature, including the cliched shots of turning autumn leaves or fields of flowers.

Burkett chooses the same subjects, but he records them so meticulously that viewers will think of paintings rather than placemats. In 1993's "Aspen Grove, Colorado" (above), the white bark and yellow leaves fill the frame to capacity; something's happening everywhere in the picture. The gorgeous color photos have been printed by Burkett himself, which may be one secret to his success.

Camera Obscura director Hal Gould calls Christopher Burkett the foremost color landscape photographer in the country. Who are we to argue?

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia