Art Review

Photographer Liz Hickok Shoots Tiny Environments Covered With Crystals

One of the many trends in contemporary photography is the creation of miniature scenes that are captured in photos that make the minuscule subjects look full-sized. This is partly what’s behind Ground Waters: Photography by Liz Hickok, a large and impressive show at Michael Warren Contemporary that is part of the city's Month of Photography celebration.

To create these photo enlargements, Hickok, who lives in San Francisco, first builds tiny sets — some depicting rural scenes, others industrial ones — that, though simple, are remarkably realistic.

Then she pours a chemical mixture over part of the scene; as the mixture dries, crystals develop. Once the crystals are set up, Hickok carefully lights the scenes, adding to the realism, and then photographs them in color. As a last step, she produces large digital pigment prints. The crystals are undeniably beautiful as they catch the light, and in some they read as ice or even flowers.

But Hickok’s actual point, made most clearly in the pseudo-industrial ones, is that pollution, represented by the crystals, is beginning to cover the world.

Through April 4 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive, 303-667-2447,

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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