Photographer Dana Montlack’s richly hued images isolate and abstract biological specimens into beguiling graphic elements. Working with micro lenses, Montlack makes the unseen visible in compositions that convey both specificity and mystery. Her newest body of work directly references John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951). Steinbeck’s book recounts his six-week expedition through the Gulf of California with marine biologist Ed Ricketts. Part intertidal taxonomy, part ecological travelogue, the book considers themes of home, mapping, and environmental harmony. Working collaboratively with the scientists and staff members at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium, Montlack selected and photographed specimens and charts from the waterways Steinbeck explored. By isolating and layering this source imagery, drawn from the vast Scripps Oceanographic Collections, Montlack crafts a new taxonomy of place.
Dana Montlack: Sea of Cortez is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, with thanks to UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium. Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.