Cara Barer: “When the Ice Melts” at Nicole Longnecker Gallery

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In a major shift from the photographs of manipulated books she is best known for, Cara Barer has been working with collaged and painted images related to climate change. This new direction began with Washed Out (all 2016), a photomontage on canvas that she created by combining painting (she was trained as a painter) with found photographs. One of the photos of a field of snow prompted her to consider the effects of climate change, including melting polar caps and rising seas. Inspired by this departure from her usual subject matter, she began combining her own photographs with photos of her paintings of tumultuous water to depict a frightening and surreal dystopian world. For the most part, these digital collages depict water overwhelming the subject matter. In Joshua Trees in Brooklyn, swirling waters threatening to overtake ghostly figures in front of a chain-link fence that merge into a desert landscape. Scientists predict that the oceans are going to rise three to four feet in this century due to greenhouse gases, and the Barer believes “our weather will become harsher, and cycles of flooding and drought will become the ‘new normal.’”

Experimentation and chance play a role in Barer’s work, and as each image leads to the next, she transforms pieces of disparate photographs into complex compositions. In Oh My God, a large pink mop is shown in front of a river of melting ice flowing through an urban landscape. She combines multiple images in unexpected ways: some figures wear oxygen masks and helmets, while others relax and lounge on lawn chairs or snap photos with their cell phone. A few figures seem to be merging with nature (as in Sleeping in the Desert and Skeleton City), while others are overwhelmed by it (Oracle). Barer’s prints capture the fragility of life on earth and posit an uncertain future. When she picked up a paintbrush again, she stepped out of her comfort zone and set off in a new and surprising direction. Whether planned or not, the result is a series of photographs that fit perfectly with FotoFest’s theme this year- “Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet.”

Arid Flood
2016
Cara Barer
Archival pigment print
40″ x 40″
Photo: courtesy Nicole Longenecker Gallery