Turbulent childhood moments form memories we try to push out of our minds; recollections we want to annihilate; pain from the past that we bury. Kathy Curtis Cahill, however, refuses to flinch from the hurt and sorrow. Instead she photographs a world filled with childhood wonder, fear, and trepidation. Delicate nuances of wistful yearnings, hope and sadness are lovingly rendered in exquisite portraits of an unspoken kindergarten life.
Cathartic, unnerving and ultimately healing, the protagonists of Cahill’s photographic mini-dramas are dolls acting out bittersweet dreams and haunting nightmares. They are wrenched from a collective history lived by children, suppressed by adults. Cahill is an artist constructing narratives with subtexts that tell our secret stories. By creating characters and masterfully manipulating her camera, she makes us feel our humanity in honest, brave, self-reflexive ways.
Blurring the line between the real and the surreal, love, abuse and trauma, Cahill’s lush pigment prints have layers of both meaning and painterly depth. She presents her work like an artist-magician, conjuring up a myriad of sophisticated image-making techniques to make elegant, visual and thematic statements that are subtle and yet become quite indelible. Embedded in elaborate mini-sets and dressed from another era, Cahill’s doll-models present characters that are timeless and enduring.
Her photographs seem powdered with fairy dust and finished with a nostalgic palette of sorrows, twinges of longing and occasional markers of the insane. Illuminated by chiaroscuro here, boldly spotlighted with cinematic intensity there, these images have a patina usually reserved for Renaissance paintings. The children’s faces come to us from another world, a world we all somehow know deep down inside our souls. Ultimately, Cahill’s luminous prints have meaning and pith – rare in a solo exhibition from an emerging artist.
-Phil Tarley, Curator