Photography, from the start, has been a key tool for extending human vision. With the help of a camera — a "supereye," as William J. Mitchell called it — we can see closer and farther than our unaided eyes allow. Inquiring minds have also long enlisted the camera to access other aspects of the unseen: spirits, thoughts, auras.
Katie Shapiro dips into this tradition, but not too deeply, in "The Great Divide" at Kopeikin Gallery. The Los Angeles-based photographer traveled to Banff, Canada, last year to pursue the intangible energies on the Continental Divide. Her pictures affirm the external majesty of the lakes and glaciers there, but to invoke less overt currents of power, she overlays fragmented patches of colored gels atop the conventional landscapes.
Typical of her process, Shapiro transforms Moraine Lake into "Green Moraine" by veiling the sky and rugged mountains with mint-colored translucent sheets and by edging the water with stretches of cyan. She interrupts and denatures the essential splendor of each of these sites, then attempts to augment or reimagine it, but her methods feel more like a graphic-design Band-Aid than a spiritual X-ray.
Part of the problem lies in Shapiro taking the process to such a sanitized, texture-less end: She rephotographed the taped and layered collages to produce clean final prints. More alive are her small, sketchy mock-ups, with their messy makings palpable and exposed. Even smaller and more intriguing are three Polaroid prints identified as Kirlian photographs, pictures of electrical fields or paranormal emanations, depending on your inclination. By giving us even less to go by, Shapiro leaves more to imagine.
Where: Kopeikin Gallery, 2766 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles