A contemporary artist
who works with photographs and MRI scans.
Catherine Wagner's photography is aimed at showing the wonder locked inside ordinary things. Her work started in the early '80s with conventional photography, focusing on buildings: homes, schools, constructions sites . In 1997, a grant from the San Jose Museum of Art allowed her to expand into the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), opening a new avenue for her explorations.
Her work with the MRI focuses on a variety of objects both human-scale and microscopic. Fruits and vegetables are a favorite subject of hers. Sometimes the results are startling and strange, as with the cross-sections of green onions. Other times, they're a bit predictable and ho-hum, such as the pictures of cross-sectioned corn on the cob.
Among her major works using MRI is Pomegranate, a wall-sized installation consisting of five small images of pomegranates repeated thousands of times. It's eight feet high and 40 feet across, with the images back-lit just as they would be in a lab. From across the room, looks like an array of white dots and rectangles against a black background. Closer up, of course, you can see the repeated pomegranate images.
Much of Wagner's MRI work is based on the research of scientists at Stanford University in California and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. She used their results to pick her subjects, then left them in the MRI machine for long exposures, producing pictures with extremely clear focus.
Wagner was named one of six "Fine Art Innovators" by Time magazine in October 2001. Cross-Sections, a book of her work, was released that month by Twin Palms Press. Since 1978 she has been a professor of art at Mills College in Oakland, Calif.
-- Exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art, January 2002 (http://www.sjmusart.org)
-- Mills College site: http://www.mills.edu