review

Leah Macdonald Exhibition
Female Fairytale

Woodstock Times - July 9, 2009
Smart Art by Paul Smart

Sensuous Encaustics

It would be easy to say that the encaustic photographer Leah MacDonald, who will be in town for an opening reception for her new exhibition at Galerie BMG this Saturday, July 11, has grown up with Bernard Gerson's gallery, having been showing there since its second show. But that would only be if one saw the borders of the wider art world falling off into nothingness beyond our views from here. Or failed to take into account this artist's rich history in the Bay area and her native San Francisco, as well as her role as a key player in the medium she's made her own for over a decade now.

"Female Fairytale," Gerson's latest collection of MacDonald works (which went on display last week), is made up of sensuous images of 29 different women all posing in the same Victorian wedding dress, each representing a different chapter in the artist's life as a woman, artist, wife and mother.

And yet the work appears to be as much about process, and the actual making of art, as metaphor or storytelling. These are clearly objects that, as art pieces, are desirable in themselves. And indicative of major advances MacDonald's making in her chosen media.

According to the gallery, "Starting with silver gelatin and Hahnemuhle fine art prints, the black and white images are adorned with beeswax, scratched, painted, sometimes torn and reconstructed, resulting in a strong, moody, feminine narrative. Using a diverse collection of film cameras and photographic tools, Leah's work merges nostalgic photographic methods with modern technology, along with an eclectic array of encaustic mixed media and various paper surfaces."

Seen in the context of her first works in BMG's second show, a group outing in autumn, 2004, as well as subsequent showings with two other photographers working with encaustics four summers ago, as well as a solo exhibition in the autumn of 2006, what's also clear is the new simplicity in MacDonald's vision. Which ends up making both her mastery of technique, and eye for composition and narrative, that much stronger.