BIOMORPHIC ALCHEMY: KAY HARTUNG + MICHELLE LOUGEE
63 SUMMER STREET
THROUGH MAY 18
by Flavia Cigliano
“Biomorphic Alchemy,” the second joint exhibit of Kay Hartung and Michelle Lougee, presents works inspired by life forms closely observed and fancifully imagined. Hartung studied photographs from electron microscopes and uses them as a jumping-off point in producing intricate, multi-layered, abstract paintings depicting cellular sub-organisms. The surface texture and the richness of her colors come from successive applications of encaustic, pot pastels and pigment stick. Lougee uses simplified forms referencing phytoplankton, zooplankton, and imagined cells in a drop of water to construct playful sculptures realized primarily in post-consumer plastic bags.
Kay Hartung’s thematic paint-ing series — “Bio Patterns,” “Entanglements,” “Bio Flow,” “Cell Migration,” and “Bio Layer” — are all represented in the exhibit and all have their origins in microscopic images. The allure of the design, color, and complexity of the images began serendipitously in 2004, when for the first time she saw highly magnified colon cancer cells. Her mother had died of colon cancer when Hartung was 19 years old, so this was personal: “These were cancer cells, but what I saw was gorgeous! I found myself asking how these deadly things could be so gorgeous.”
A variety of super-magnified images has been her inspiration ever since. But, it is collective scientific impressions that she represents in her compositions, not a single screen shot of a particular cell or specific bacteria. Her designs are her own. “All these things are part of the visual language I’ve developed to express my art,” she explained. Her elements are codes that relay what she thinks and wants to communicate, thus inviting us to contemplate the impact these infinitesimal organisms have on the world.