Natural Beauty: Courtney Egan at Arthur Roger Gallery

Tasia Kastanek reviews Courtney Egan's "Circulation of Light" at Arthur Roger Gallery.

Video still of Courtney Egan's Dreamcatcher, 2013. Interactive HD video projection. Courtesy the artist and Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans.

Courtney Egan
Arthur Roger Gallery
432 Julia Street
January 3 - February 28, 2015

Courtney Egan’s exhibition “Circulation of Light” plays with time in several video-based works that explore the mediation of nature through technology. From afar, Dreamcatcher, 2013, appears static—a strange tropical bud jutting from a pale green and pink stalk. The blooming process seems suspended indefinitely, but as the viewer takes a few strides closer a cocoon of red spikes unfurls to reveal delicate white petals surrounding a chorus of tiny yellow and white stamen. The viewer determines whether the motion-activated flower palpitates hesitantly or rapidly blossoms. This disruption of the expected relationship between media and viewer emphasizes how the pace of human observation determines our understanding and consumption of nature.

In the two other works, Egan uses sculpted forms as bases for video projections, effectively fusing the sensuality of glass and metal with the ethereality of projected light. In Fountain, 2014, swooping aluminum chains connect a collection of cast glass bottles, arranged like a chandelier on the wall. The projection of a silent but frenzied flow of water animates the bottles and delicate metal chains, running up, down, and bubbling inside the bottles. The ceaseless streams appear so convincing, despite their illogical directions and speed, that the viewer can almost feel the occasional spray of droplets. Crystal Gazers, 2014, similarly merges glass sculpture and projections, creating a luminescent vegetal object. Clusters of glass medallions, reminiscent of sand dollars, hang from sinuous iron branches, refracting and magnifying the projected purple and green light. In the negative space between the gem-like discs, glimmering bursts of light fade to tiny motes, like a fantastic snowfall or deep sea bubbles. All three works evoke a nearly magical sense of beauty, amplifying and perhaps supplanting the experience of being in nature. With such seamless and captivating illusions, we may just forget to appreciate the real thing.

Installation view of Courtney Egan's Crystal Gazers, 2014. Forged metal, cast glass, wire, HD video projection. Courtesy the artist and Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans.