Like a mirage luring gamblers to their doom, Katherine Taylor's oil paintings of Mississippi casinos observed from a great distance capture the changeable, bewitching aspects of light. Taylor uses paint to ambient effect, attempting to capture the properties that can make the human animal as susceptible to luminescence as so many moths, flapping against the heat.
Taylor's paintings present an odd dichotomy. On one hand, this recent Georgia State MFA graduate's paintings are steeped in a kind of dark romance and the medium's ability to convey the artist's unique subjectivity. In paintings with titles like "Night Distance" and "Nocturne," Taylor bisects her canvases with a chain of bright light at the center, serving as focal point and horizon line.
The way Taylor captures the distant lights of a marina or gambling hall is dependent not only upon the artistry of the painter's brush and the moody web she weaves, but on the most technologically mediated device — the camera. The hazy glow cast by these light sources — their dimmer penumbra emanating from a white hot pinpoint yolk — is a photographic effect that shows the influence of photography on contemporary painting. Small details in Taylor's paintings also reference photographs, like the black haze that often intrudes into the paintings' edges or the tiny constellations of black across the painting's surface, both of which suggest the time-weathered deterioration of film.
Like regional artists Todd Murphy and E.K. Huckaby, Taylor uses the photograph to give her work a nacreous, almost gothic effect that has begun to seem like an indigenous aesthetic. And by appropriating a photographic effect — pinpoints of light unfocused by a lens until they swell into luminous discs — Taylor renders a mirage caused not by natural phenomena but by the distinctly 20th-century device of the camera.
Paintings by Katherine Taylor are on view through Oct. 19 at Marcia Wood Gallery, 1831 Peachtree St. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-351-3930. www.marciawoodgallery.com.??