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Art Detroit Now  8.12.23
Macintyre - Aug. 12th Gallery Opening (1).jpg

At first blush, painter Laura Macintyre’s works seem diametrically different. A focal point of “Natural History”  is the “This Mortal Coil” series, a collection of paintings of dead birds, many babies, their organs visible through translucent, featherless skin. But death, too, is part of the cycle of life and of the city. Macintyre, who walks daily, is a keen observer and documenter of urban wildlife in her Hamtramck neighborhood. Creatures, after all, dead or alive, are part of our community too. I was particularly drawn to this series of paintings -- the painstakingly recreated contortions, the practically tactile quality of the pallid skin, a decaying Welch’s wrapper that serves as a makeshift tombstone for one of the feathered deceased -- despite, or perhaps because, of the fact that were I to have encountered these scenes in real life, I would have averted my eyes while attempting to ward off a shiver. How often do we turn away from that which reminds us of both the harshness and fragility of life? Macintyre, instead, invites us to take a closer look, in all its grotesque beauty.


Birds feature throughout Macintyre’s exhibit, sometimes in fantastical ways, abstractly interspersed with DNA strands, bursting seed pods, pairs of human hands seemingly at opposite ends of the life cycle. Other times, birds enter the frame in almost mythical ways, their heads or partial bodies looming large in the foreground and top corners of a familiar Hamtramck alley-scape, for instance, or protruding from the right side of a painting grounded by an overview of the Great Barrier Reef (one of the few non-local references in the exhibit), from which extends a utility pole strewn with wires. All these ecosystems -- natural and man-made -- collide (alarmingly, more and more in today’s world) yet interconnect.

It is easy with Macintyre’s paintings to get lost in the forms, the intricacies, the patterns, both within and between works. But the more one looks, the more there is to see. Just as the viewer becomes immersed in the inner details of a seed pod, a realer-than-real-life bird’s head appears. Then another. And another. Like Rock, Macintyre is a master of capturing subtleties, though it is the ever-shifting nuances of the natural world with which she is concerned here.


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