Irene Imfeld, a noted Bay Area photographer, and previously co-owner of PHOTO gallery in Oakland, now focuses on the worlds of plants and birds. Inspired by some of the earliest photographic images of botanical subjects, she joins the ranks of photographers with both scientific and poetic inclinations—and sometimes both. Her relatively ‘straight’ portrayals of mushrooms (albeit magnified, and composed with an eye to abstraction), and the sharply rendered bird plumage of the 2014 Vacant Nest series, fall nicely within the 150-year tradition of fine-art nature photography. However, Imfeld's lyrical abstractions made possible with digital technology—duplicating, reversing, superimposing, altering color palettes—are impressionistic, subjective, and decidedly contemporary. Her 'With a Crane’s Eye' series may derive from photographs of plants and grasses, but she transforms them into pyrotechnic calligraphy like the paintings of Jackson Pollock, spatially flat, infinitely deep, and perhaps even visionary. Imfeld’s photographs remind us of John Muir's advice to anxious urbanites: not to ‘hike,’ but to ’saunter reverently’ in nature.
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