‘Botanica’—Pandemic brought out photographer’s imagination
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PORTSMOUTH – New Hampshire Art Association photographer Lesley Morgan shifted gears during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating work that will be shown at the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery during October.
Morgan’s current body of work pushes the boundaries of traditional photography, through manipulation in Photoshop and augmentation with mixed media.
“The past year was a transition year, as COVID self-isolation moved me away from street subjects to more imaginative works that have handcrafted elements,” she said.
Morgan also explored color and texture in ways that will inform her future work.
“Botanica” is the theme of work created from December 2020 to September 2021. A botanica is a shop that sells plant-based health remedies and products used in spiritual practices.
For Morgan, the term ironically describes the floral aspect of her artwork and the heightened state of mind that creates them.
She said that a comment made by a visitor to the gallery last spring inspired her floral portraits that were created in Photoshop, layer by layer, as a florist might adjust blooms in a vase. Referencing a vaguely software-enhanced photo, the gentleman had said, “If a photo has been Photoshopped, I want to know it.”
For Morgan, photo correction obscures the quality of the photographer’s skill. And large scale, painterly reproductions of photos on canvas raise questions about the nature of art.
“It prompted me to be more creative and to move towards hands-on ways of creating art,” she said.
“The flowers were photographed with an iPhone X against a backdrop of black cloth or foam core,” she explained.
“As I worked, the Photoshopped arrangements seemed to beg for eyes and became very specific to friends and family. They reminded me of Arcimboldo’s portraits.”
Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a Renaissance artist known for his highly detailed, surreal portraits composed of flowers and vegetables, fish and books.
“Layers allow me to substitute anyone’s eyes… which may be the best marketable quality of this series,” Morgan added.
Other pieces contained in the exhibit include floral samplers with hand-stitched elements, large-scale enhanced photos, explorations into color and abstractions, and questionable pieces that challenge our notions of what exactly is art.
Morgan lives in Exeter, NH and has been a member of NHAA since 2020. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with a Bachelor in Art degree.
Visitors to the gallery are currently being asked to wear a mask due to the prevalence of COVID-19. However, if visitors are more comfortable setting up a time to view the exhibit by appointment outside of gallery hours, they can call 603-431-4230.
Go & Do
“Botanica” - Photographs by Lesley Morgan, Exhibition and Sale
Where: Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery,136 State Street, Portsmouth NH, and online at www.nhartassociation.org
When: Sept. 29 to Oct. 31. Opening reception at the Levy Gallery, Friday, Oct. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Gallery hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m.
SHOWN: “Arcimboldo Eyes,” a photograph by Lesley Morgan, will be on display at the Robert Lincoln Gallery, during October.