The Log from the Sea of Cortez(1951) by John Steinbeck documents his six week expedition through the Gulf of California with marine biologist Ed Ricketts. In her current exhibition, photographer Dana Montlack references Steinbeck’s journey through her collaboration with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. Her under-sea images are dissections and magnifications of specimens and charts from the waterways of the Sea of Cortez. These lambda prints mounted on aluminum are richly hued snippets of marine life and maps collaged in layers on mostly round formats mimicking the eye of a microscope. While we aren’t always sure what we are looking at, these photographic multi-images provide
glimpses unavailable to the naked eye. They are fragmentary hyper-views of the natural organic world that appear both wondrous and confusing. These visual abstractions border on painting as the transparent layering of images blur our vision of the ‘original’ photographs used. Montlack’s photo-collages are unified in their attempts to capture the totality of nature, seeking to remind us of the ‘unseen’ universe.