Paula McCartney

(American, b.1971; resides St. Paul, MN)

Rather than settling for what nature has to offer, I have taken control and adorned the trees with their longed for, but absent, tenants. —Paula McCartney

In Paula McCartney’s series Bird Watching, densely wooded landscapes are enlivened, ironically, by brightly colored craft store songbirds. While the deceit is more obvious in some pictures than others, these faux fowl punctuate their environments both as formal elements—carefully arranged amid the arc and curve of brush and branches—and as a curious construction that offers an idealized vision of nature undercut by a gentle satire of that ideal. Expected to be a two-year project, McCartney began the Bird Watching series in 2003, and will release a book with the same title co-published by Princeton Architectural Press and the MoCP in 2010. She exhibited the series at Klompching Gallery in New York City in a solo show, March 4-April 23, 2010.

In a second body of work, A Field Guide to Snow and Ice, McCartney continues to explore nature, this time taking on the harsh and often beautiful elements of winter. After moving from San Francisco to Minneapolis, the artist found herself haunted by the intense cold of Minnesota’s long winters. Inspired, she created a field guide of sorts, which combines ominous night shots of snow and ice with photograms of the summer wildflower Queen Anne’s Lace made to look like snowflakes. With this contradiction of season, as well as a disorienting treatment of space and scale, the series creates a psychological portrayal of winter that hints at cold weather’s power to linger the minds of northerners even during summer months.

McCartney’s studies include a Certificate in Photography from the International Center of Photography, New York (1996), a BFAfrom Empire State College, New York (1998), and an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute (2002). She is the recipient of a 2007 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Photographers, a 2005 Women’s Studio Workshop Artists’ Book Production Grant and a 2004 Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer’s Fellowship Grant. Recent solo exhibitions include Ornithological Interpretations at Rochester Art Center, Rochester, MN, Bird Watching at Women’s Studio Workshop, Rosendale, New York, and Constructed Landscapes at 364 Hayes Street Contemporary Art, San Francisco. Her work is also held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Arts Commission; and Stanford University, Palo Alto, California.
Bird Watching (winter blue birds), 2005Bird Watching (winter blue birds), 2005
Bird Watching (vermilion fly catcher), 2006Bird Watching (vermilion fly catcher), 2006

Museum of Contemporary Photography

at Columbia College Chicago
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