“Divine Nature,” Exhibition Continues at ArtPrint Photo Gallery
By Peggy Ebner
The photo exhibition Divine Nature, the newest work by local photographer Holly Wilmeth, is currently showing at Art Print Photo Gallery on Correo. Consisting entirely of portraits, the show seeks to explore the spiritual connections between women and animals and will remain on view until August 30.
While living in Oaxaca, Wilmeth was inspired by the sea turtles that return by the thousands to specific beaches to build nests and lay their delicate eggs. After happening upon the body of a turtle that had washed ashore, she was so moved that she preserved its skeleton and began researching the spiritual significance of turtles among a number of cultures.
Her exploration of the sea turtle’s attributes led to the conception of the project as a collection of the spiritual qualities of different animal species. Traveling throughout the United States, Mexico, and Central America, Wilmeth visited a number of animal sanctuaries and nature preserves, some devoted solely to a single type of animal. There she witnessed the special connection that can arise from the experience of caring for an animal or simply being inspired by its presence. It is this connection that Wilmeth captures in Divine Nature, using elegant and unencumbered compositions and a variety of animal species and female models. The models, both human and animal, engage fearlessly and intimately with one another or with the viewer, a feature underlined by the absence of any background features in the photographs. The striking images and spare background give the impression that we are witnessing a spiritual event, full of meaning but freed from the trappings of everyday life.
Wilmeth shot the images on site at the locations she visited during her travels working on the project. The dialog between the human and animal subjects is driven by the differences in the textures of skin, hair, fur or scales, but also by the similarities between the forms of the women and animals. The eyes of a monkey are no less bright and alive than those of his human caretaker.
The photographs are accompanied by text describing the symbolism of the various animal species. Different native cultures throughout the Americas have long ascribed valuable human qualities to different species of animals, with the accompanying idea that an interaction with that animal can remind us of the good qualities we wish to cultivate in ourselves. Sometimes these qualities are intuitive, such as with the owl, a nocturnal creature that easily navigates the darkest of nights and might lend us some of that vision. Others are more surprising, such as the iguana, a lover of simple pleasures who can escape danger by shedding its tail and leaving a part of itself behind.
The show has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception, especially among female viewers, says Michael Wiebach, owner of Art Print Photo Gallery. “I think women in particular feel a connection to these pieces because of the subject matter and the way that Holly has portrayed the models as powerful and at one with nature.”
A portion of the proceeds from each sale in the show will go to benefit various charitable organizations, including the Escuela de Educación Especial de San Miguel de Allende and the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, where many of the photographs were shot.