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March 31, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 14

The McMullen Museum will host exhibitions this spring featuring the work of James Balog '74 (below) and Dorothy Cross (above, a photo of her installation "Snakes").

Balog, Cross exhibits kick off April 14 at McMullen

Two compelling visual styles will be on display this spring at the McMullen Museum of Art: that of James Balog '74, whose works transcend conventional nature photography; and Dorothy Cross, an innovator in site-specific art.

The exhibitions showcasing Balog and Cross both kick off on April 14 at the McMullen and will run until July 12.

In addition, the artists will make special campus appearances as part of the exhibitions. On April 14, Cross will attend the 7 p.m. opening reception for her show, "GONE: Site-Specific Works by Dorothy Cross," prior to her 8 p.m. appearance as part of the Lowell Lectures Humanities Series.

Balog will be at BC to attend and speak at the April 29 public opening reception at 7 p.m. for "TREE: A New Vision of the American Forest." He also will receive the third annual Arts Council Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement as part of the Boston College Arts Festival taking place April 28-30 [For more on his visit and reception RSVP information, see www.bc.edu/arts].

For two decades, Balog has consistently broken new ground in the art of photographing nature. His provocative and powerful images - exhibited around the globe and published in National Geographic Adventure, where he is a contributing editor, and other magazines such as Time, Smithsonian, Audubon, Outside, Stern and Paris-Match - have received international acclaim. The author of six books, each of which marks major conceptual advances in nature photography, Balog has received awards for his work, including the Leica Medal of Excellence.

"TREE," the subject of the exhibition and Balog's most recent book project, published last fall by Barnes & Noble, presents a geographically diverse selection of trees that span the United States and range in age from several hundred to 2,000 years. Central to the exhibition is a monumental, color assemblage of a Giant Sequoia.

Balog explores the changing character of the American forest in his photographs of "superlative trees." Often he focuses on a single concentrated frame, exposing complex and swirling details of ancient trees, or "champions." He shows sculpturally elegant trees that have survived by sheer hardiness or luck.

Echoing the cubist sensibility of Picasso and Braque and similar to the mosaic-assemblage technique pioneered by photographer David Hockney, his most recent photographs are produced using a digital multi-exposure method. Balog captures a tree in thousands of tiny frames as he rappels down an adjacent tree; the composite image evokes the tree's titanic scale. Individual photo shards - as many as eight hundred per assemblage - double as leaves on his digitally reconstructed tree. The resulting mosaic technique is closest to the scientific imaging developed for aerial and satellite photography, and widely used in geology and geophysics.

"James Balog's powerful photographs have always broken new ground in capturing the 'story' that nature tells, and we are pleased to present his work for the first time to the Boston audience," said McMullen Museum Director Prof. Nancy Netzer (Fine Arts).

"GONE" is the first exhibition to make the publicly acclaimed site-specific work by one of Ireland's most outstanding contemporary artists available to an expanded audience and to permanently document Cross's work in a catalogue.

Using a variety of media, Cross engages the particularities of a given time and place while simultaneously capturing the psychic commonality of anxiety and desire. Her work is highly conceptual and theoretical, but retains the actuality of place and the materiality of the object. Temporary site-specific works are generally seen by relatively few spectators and leave no concrete, lasting form; they are preserved through documentation in photographs, videos or written accounts.

Organized into three thematic sections - "The Return of the Repressed," "The Impossibility of Desire" and "The Inevitability of Loss" - the exhibition comprises 68 color and black-and-white photographs documenting Cross's installations, and two slide projections of images that evoke the presence of the original works. In addition, four videos and sculptural objects will be installed in the museum galleries to approximate the original viewing space; there also will be a monumental outdoor video projection.

"The multi-media projects assembled here were executed over the past decade in such varied locations as a Byzantine church in Istanbul and an abandoned handball court in Galway," said exhibition curator and Prof. Robin Lydenberg (English). "Because these pieces were often created in remote places and for very short periods of time, they were seen by relatively small audiences.

"The McMullen Museum exhibition documents these 'GONE' works in photographs, videos and sculptures from the original installations. The stunningly illustrated catalogue includes Cross's account of the conceptual and technical evolution of several of the works," added Lydenberg, whose commentary provides the first in-depth analysis of these projects.

For more information on the exhibitions and the museum, including days and hours, visit the McMullen Web site at www.bc.edu/artmuseum. -Rosanne Pellegrini

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