“Field Recordings by Courtney Egan,” Gambit

by D. Eric Bookhardt, via bestofneworleans.com

Botanical art has been with us since the earliest days of civilization, turning up on ancient Egyptian tombs and Greek and Roman monuments. Plants and animals are always in a state of evolutionary flux, so the artists of the past have been a major source of information about species no longer with us today. But art too evolves, and Courtney Egan’s Field Recordings expo reflects a turning point, not only for botanical art but also for video, liberated at last from monitors and projection screens. All that Egan’s work requires is a room with twilight lighting, a cool aesthetic gloom of the sort closed curtains or blinds can easily provide.

Gushers is a video of stylized water lilies projected on the wall. Rising from a tidal pool of old speakers on the floor, they gyrate to the electronic rhythms that emanate from the speakers until, one by one, they explode like roman candles, evoking a sense of dystopian irony like genetic modification experiments gone weirdly awry. Sigils is an installation comprised of a pair of sculptural replicas of tree branches from which ghostly Spanish moss seems to dangle and almost dance in the breeze. But there is no breeze, and the moss is all the more ghostly for consisting mainly of light in the form of projected Spanish moss images, all of which is unexpectedly lovely. Repercussion employs similar motifs in the form of a projected time-lapse image of a blooming flower, a yellow angel’s trumpet blossom dripping nectar as an attentive bee darts in and out. This too is ethereally lovely to look at even as its flickering imagery conveys something of the shimmering mystery of early motion picture photography. A night-blooming cereus in a montage of digital video picture frames is no less ethereal. In this amazing show, we see a reordering of ordinary things like flowers, moss and video into a meditation on natural forms and electronic imagery, and the ever-diminishing boundaries between them. — D. Eric Bookhardt