About the Photographer
American, b. 1953
Known both for her series concerned with architectural spaces and her series steeped in scientific imaging, Catherine Wagner has a detached but illuminating view of how we arrange fact and fantasy. In 1995, in conjunction with its exhibition The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks, the Canadian Center for Architecture commissioned Wagner to shoot a series on the four Disney theme parks (Wagner had previously worked with the CCA on a 1984 commission to photograph the Louisiana World Exposition). Typical of the series, Special Effects Tank, Backstage Studio Tour, Disney-MGM Studios gives an unpopulated view at the edges of the artifice, focusing on the physical structures that create the park's illusions. Made that same year, Wagner's 1995 series Sequential Molecules interprets controlled spaces from a rather different perspective – that of beakers scrawled with technical notes and holding mysterious substances against the void of black space – but nonetheless exemplifies the photographer's signature composure and formalism.
Catherine Wagner was born on January 31, 1953 in San Francisco, California. After studies at Instituto del Arte, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; San Francisco Art Institute; and College of Marin, Kentfield, California; Wagner completed both a BA (1975) and an MA (1977) from San Francisco State University. She is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1987) and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1981, 1990/91). Solo exhibitions of Realism and Illusion: Catherine Wagner Photographs the Disney Theme Parks were held at the Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; and Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica, California. Her work is in numerous collections, including those of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Wagner has taught at Mills College, Oakland, California since 1979.