Carol Nye’s “Strangers in a Strange Land”...


Carol Nye’s “Strangers in a Strange Land” at Seewald’s Photographic Art Gallery (1114 N. Highway 101, Leucadia) presents two views of culturally displaced communities. In one series, Nye, of Chinese descent and now living in Fallbrook, examines life in Los Angeles’ Chinatown; in the other, she documents the non-Chinese population of a province in western China.

Although the Chinatown pictures possess a dry stiffness and regularity, those made in China are suffused with energy and mystery. Having attended college in Los Angeles, Nye’s familiarity with the Chinatown scene is perhaps to blame for her staid, static approach. When in China, her style breaks loose, emboldened by curiosity, and she produces images of great visual dynamism as well as sociological appeal.

Small but evocative narratives emerge from her juxtapositions of forms and remarkable faces. In one image, a bound white sheep is being pulled through the picture on a donkey cart while a figure clad in dark garments from head to toe walks in the opposite direction. The photograph’s wealth of contrasts -- animal/ human, white/ black, bound/ concealed -- are seized in a moment of balance, symmetry and harmony.


In another image, a little girl looks up at the camera with an intense, questioning stare, intensified by her tilted head and furrowed brow. She alone is in sharp focus, the blurred laborers and piled timber around her serving as casual counterpoint to her concentrated expression.

Nye’s Chinese work is full of such magnetic moments, revealing not only the personality of their subjects but also the artistic potential of their maker.

The exhibit continues through Oct. 21.