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Etherton Gallery : Kate Breakey : Transience


Etherton Gallery presents the exhibition, Kate Breakey: Transience, which highlights photographs and multi-media images by Kate Breakey, who has dedicated her artistic career to preserving wildness in the natural world.

Speaking recently about her 2022 retrospective at the Grace Museum in Abilene, Texas, Breakey said, “My own collection of images serves as a record – a random, disjointed, visual diary of the things I’ve seen and loved – a way to possess and preserve what is wild and ineffable, and above all transient, labeled and arranged under glass – my own kind of natural history museum, evidence of my life’s journey.”

Breakey credits Alfred Stieglitz, an advocate of Pictorialist photography, with freeing her to work against the grain of contemporary photography. Popular in the early 20th century, Pictorialism was an artistic movement and an aesthetic approach to photography that emphasized the beauty of the subject matter, tonality and composition rather than the documentation of reality. Pictorialist photographers often made altered photographs that looked more like charcoal drawings or pastels.

Expanding on that legacy, Breakey has experimented with many different materials, such as paint, pastels, colored pencils, and embroidery within her photographs; on an equally diverse range of supports such as photo papers, glass, silk, and hand-made artist papers; using processes that include orotones (or goldtones), photograms, and a variety of darkroom and digital processes. She prefers the sensual, velvety texture of photogravure to the straight gelatin silver print, and the tactile pleasures of using paint to add layers of complexity to her subjects, all in service of expressing her awe and wonder at the natural world.

Breakey is spellbound by what she calls the “natural disorder of things;” the random details in the pattern of a rattlesnake’s skin, the way the light falls on a patch of grass, or a bird that alights on a twig for an instant. As both a romantic and amateur scientist, she understands the fragility and ephemerality of the life around us. In her portraits, still lifes and landscapes, she captures these brief moments.

Each hand-colored work by Kate Breakey is a product of time, labor and concentration. She cannot replicate the materials, processes or in some cases, even the framing, that contribute to the making of each photograph. As a result, each hand-colored photograph is a unique, multi-dimensional object that stands on its own or as a group and provides a larger portrait of the wildness she tames in every image.

Kate Breakey: Transience takes a slow look at the artist’s 40 year quest to possess and preserve “what is wild and ineffable.”

Etherton Gallery now represents British landscape photographer Paul Hart, whose work is on display in the Pop Up Gallery in conjunction with Kate Breakey: Transience. Paul Hart: The Fens, highlights a selection of images from Hart’s multi-year project exploring The Fens, a region of reclaimed marshland in eastern England, and one of the richest arable areas in the United Kingdom. Hart’s lyrical photographs take us to this wide-open landscape of straight lines and flat horizons, demonstrating nature’s vulnerability within this unsheltered, unprotected environment. His narrative examines the complex interrelation between humanity and nature, and raises important questions about … our occupation and stewardship of this land.


Kate Breakey : Transience
Through June 18, 2022
Etherton Gallery
340 South Convent Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701

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