Taylor invites us into her prankster, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t spirit of mischievous wonderment. Her color is ethereal, the layered iconography floating and fleeting. But she plays off all this illusionism against an exacting and sometimes comic specificity. In Animal Dreams, the somber face of a Victorian boy is sharply defined but wreathed by spectral animals while bubbly clouds roll across his lap. Taylor is big on bubbles and other frail, wafting, fine-textured things such as butterflies, leaves, and birds, which sometimes look pasted on to more robust physical presences like that Dickensian boy. One picture is a virtual declaration of her poetics. Four homely, somber men dressed in goofy party crowns and frock coats stand at a cliff’s edge and dangle a long pole baited, as if to catch some monster of the deep, with a wasp nest larger than themselves. They look convinced that they’ll achieve some heretofore undiscovered reality. They’re scientists of some maniacal kind; they’re mad anglers waiting for a great fish story to tell; they’re explorers posing on a promontory overlooking the sea. This picture, The Alchemists, might just as accurately been titled Self-portrait. ■
The Smart Set: Photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt, San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-232-7931. Runs through January 30.
New Realities: Jerry Uelsmann and Maggie Taylor, Museum of Photographic Arts, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-238-7559. Runs through January 30.