Kate Connell's "Gingko and Lamps, Kyoto."

Kate Connell's "Gingko and Lamps, Kyoto."

Here, There and Back Again; Photographs from Texas, Japan and California by Kate Connell.

At the Faulkner East Gallery, Santa Barbara Central Library. Shows through December 27.

Stepping into the world of photographer Kate Connell is like drifting between a meditative consciousness and a dream where memories of familiarly foreign landscapes float in and out of one another. The sky is a hazy white; the earth is dewy and tangled with vines. In Connell’s world, what is real effortlessly flips between a sharp focus and a soft blur, leaving much to the imagination.

Here, There and Back Again features a collection of 31 photographs that chronicle the past eight years of Connell’s studies of vines in Austin, Texas; nature in urban Kyoto, Japan; and the suburban neighborhoods and ranches of our own backyards in Goleta and Santa Barbara.

Through her visual exploration of place, Connell discovers and uncovers layers of her own personal history. Her strongest images are those that successfully blur the lines of perception between what is natural and what is man-made; when organic forms are mistaken for urban architecture and vice versa. In “Gingko and Lamps, Kyoto,” the skinny branches of a gingko tree stretch into the white sky like a natural radio tower arching above curved streetlamps. Close to the trunk, a few remaining golden leaves intertwine with the branches, fluttering like delicate moths and adding life to this otherwise sparse scene. In “Ma, the Gate, Kyoto” what we think is a canopy of interlocking vines giving way to an urban neighborhood is, on closer inspection, merely a moldering metal fence.

Connell’s photographs express the balance between her delights and disappointments with the modern environment. Overall, her images show us that no matter where one goes, nature prevails, blurring the artificial boundaries between countries, cultures, and one another.

The artist believes in giving back to each place she inhabits, and in that spirit she will donate a percentage of print sales to benefit the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County. In this sense, Connell’s sensitivity to the otherwise overlooked details of the everyday capture an optimistic vision of the future of preservation, as well as a portrait of our common inheritance: a world of both urban landscapes and natural spaces.

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