Walking into a gallery full of Cig Harvey’s photographs is like opening a huge box of candy. Some are lollipop-sweet, with a tart zing at the end. Others look frothy and light – until you bite into them. No matter where you look, it’s an utterly satisfying treat.
Harvey, an English-born artist who now calls Rockport and Boston home, has spent the last 10 years of her life translating her story – and her secrets – into exquisite imagery. A solo exhibit featuring 59 photographs Harvey’s portfolios is on view through Sept. 25 at Carver Hill Gallery in Rockport.
Oh, and if you can’t make it to the show, pick up September’s Vogue (if you can lift it). Harvey shot Kate Spade’s fall ad campaign in signature – colorful – style.
In the photographic world, Harvey, 34, is a rising star. In 2005, Photo District News named her one of its “Emerging 30.” Her work is in the permanent collections of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, and a solo exhibit of her photographs opens today at New York’s Robin Rice Gallery.
Though she’s a full-time professor at Lesley College (and a freelance photographer for the country’s highest-profile magazines), Harvey longs for Maine whenever she’s not here. She met her husband, Doug Stradley, during a stint at the Maine Photographic Workshops, and the couple closed on a “fally-down farmhouse” in Rockport two weeks ago.
“Maine is a pretty amazing place,” Harvey said. “It’s so magical. We keep pinching ourselves, like, can this be true?”
The same could be said of her photographs. Saturated with color, imbued with light, her work transforms everyday scenes into extraordinary narratives. In most cases, Harvey is her own model, and the world she creates is one of vulnerability.
Though her imagery is deceptively simple – a green apple tucked in the belt of an apple-green gingham dress – the stories are not. A second glance reveals that it’s a woman wearing a child-size dress. The apple’s flesh has browned.
“It wasn’t just any model, it was me, and I was telling my story,” Harvey explained during a recent visit to the Rockport gallery. “There’s so much behind all these images. Each one is laden with secrets.”
In her four-part portfolio “Tread Softly,” the tonality of her black-and-white images shifts from brilliant whites to deep grays, charting the dark waters of unrequited love. Images from her series “An Archeology of Distraction” evoke the palette and the wistful solitude of Edward Hopper’s paintings. In these, the viewer senses that Harvey the model has arrived too late to the ball. Or the diner, as the case may be.
As a new bride, however, her current body of work focuses on nesting and coupledom – the joy of standing under a starry sky with her husband, and the comfort of a Sunday morning newspaper at home.
“I’m at a point right now where I think the world is amazing,” she said.
Over the weekend, she photographed Doug in the field behind their house, marveling at how bright the stars are outside the city. But even when she’s in the studio, the beauty of Maine permeates her work.
“I’m on fire with making pictures,” she said. “I always find when I’m in the city, my thoughts are cluttered, and all the colors are colliding. I think Maine just heightens the senses. … I find it really beautiful, and I think that’s what I’m trying to do with my work – explore – the world is a pretty awesome place.”
For more information, visit www.cigharvey.com. Carver Hill Gallery is located at 264 Meadow St. in Rockport. For information or directions, visit www.carverhillgallery.com or call 236-0745.