A Beautifully Obstructed View: Photographs by Kate Connell and Larry Mills

Interpretations of Landscape shows through June 30 at the Art Resources Gallery

Kate Connell

Nestled as it is at the end of an alleyway lined with succulents and weathered picture frames, one could easily miss the Art Resources Gallery, which doubles as a frame shop. Inside this hidden creative space, Santa Barbara photographers Kate Connell and Larry Mills’s current exhibit, Interpretations of Landscape, juxtaposes the artists’ natural visions with their subjects’ synthetic materials and obstructed vistas.

Although foreign objects dominate Connell’s landscapes, they appear effortlessly organic, as if they have evolved to become part of the natural world. Saturated images appear as if viewed through a veil: Emerald green nets drape across the skyline like withering vines, while burgundy curtains of rope give way to the hazy Kyoto mountains in “Hieizan through Net.” In “Pigeons and Lamps,” bare tree branches resembling antlers are silhouetted against street lamps and traffic lights that meld together against the skyline. Sharp, golden and copper pine needles pierce through openings in “Fence with Needles,” as if reclaiming their natural territory.

Connell’s sensitivity for detail is contrasted by Mills’s architecturally linear photographs. Mills depicts an urban landscape where buildings, traffic signs, and abandoned cars cast unexpected shadows to create new forms. The photographer draws inspiration from quirky San Francisco architecture, as seen in “House of God,” where a small pastel home sits perched like a dollhouse between imposing apartment buildings. From the window, a porcelain angel peeks out as if searching for something unattainable in the sliver of sky visible above. In “Facelift,” a sleeping woman’s face is depicted in spray paint on the rock of a jetty that protrudes into a serene bay, as if the woman is shutting her eyes to any further encroachment on the waters she fails to protect.

Together, Connell and Mills’s photographs expose the hidden beauty in unexpected spaces, where humans orchestrate the contemporary landscape. Synthetic materials appear organic, while urban skylines and neglected machines express human influences on the natural habitat. Both artists embrace what is left of the natural landscape, planting the seed for preservation and expressing nostalgia for the open spaces of the past.

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