Artist with Block Island roots has new New York show

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 7:15pm

Can the patterns of the earth’s surface reveal its inner secrets?

That’s a question Katherine Wolkoff is exploring in a new photographic exhibit that has opened at New York’s Benrubi Gallery. The show is called “The Critical Zone,” a space roughly described as ranging from the tops of trees to the bottom of the ground water below. It is in this space, some scientists argue, that the environmental health of the planet can be discerned.

If this sounds as much scientific as artistic, it’s because Wolkoff said she is trying to strike a balance. She, in fact, calls herself an “artist-scientist.” The photographs in the exhibit — there are 12 of them — explore the beauty of rock formations, lichen, ice, sediment, wood, and other natural elements. She does not believe she is a neutral observer of the landscape, because, she said, “I care very much for the environment. We need to do work much harder to protect it.” The photographs were taken all over the country.

Wolkoff’s interest in nature has its roots in her Block Island experiences. Her family purchased a home in the 1990s, but they were coming out here a decade earlier. (Her father worked at The Nature Conservancy.) A couple of Wolkoff’s early projects included photographing the birds in the Elizabeth Dickens collection at the school in silhouette, and photographing deer beds — areas where deer find protection and sanctuary from hunters — on the island.

“I’ve made a lot of work on Block Island,” Wolkoff said, “but this new body of work is more expansive.”

Wolkoff employs a variety of techniques to capture these images. Some are made with a 4x5 large format camera with film, others are shot on digital formats, and with others she takes her flatbed scanner out into the field to scan in the images. These are processed on a computer and printed on digital silver paper. The images in this show are all in black and white.

“I work them over to make them look like how I imagine them,” she said. “These are not scientific fact. I’m making art.”

The show runs through March 2. More information can be found at