When we encounter Catherine Feric's world of seductive textures and hues, we must constantly remind ourselves that what we are seeing is part fact and part fiction. Her artistic journey is that of a photographer/painter who carefully crafts rather than simply discovers the image.

Feric's work is deeply encoded with autobiographical references. Her first contact with photography was at the age of seventeen, when she was employed by Time-Life in Paris. During this period she spent hours in the photo lab intrigued by the developing process. In the artist's words, "I was fascinated by the images popping out in the acid...images coming and going from all over the world, from all different stories."

At the age of twenty-two, Feric spent three months in South Africa assisting the Time-Life photographer Pierre Boulat on the set of Stanley Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey. The time spent in Africa reaffirmed her love of the region, which she had first experienced at the age of twelve when her family moved from Metz, France, to Senegal. This childhood experience in a culture radically different from her own had a profound impact on her life. Of this period she recalls the magnificence of the colors, foliage, and local costume.

In addition to her fascination with the diversity of nature and world cultures, Feric's life has been intimately associated with fashion. In 1977 she established the first Fiorucci store in Paris. She was drawn to the unique spirit of the Fiorucci line, which epitomized avant-garde urban style. This immersion in the experimental use of color and prints contributed to a lifelong interest in the art of fashion. In 1982 she and her family moved to the island of Saint-Barthelemy and, with the fashion house Hermes, established one of the most prestigious shops in the Caribbean. Her intuitive sense for creating displays that combined impeccably crafted products with objects from her own collection made the store a design mecca.

Feric's career in the world of photography, film, and fashion, as well as her frequent travels to Morocco, Venice, and New York, are evident in the photographs in this exhibition, which date from 2001 to 2003. Using innovative techniques, she shuns generic concepts of beauty, focusing instead on constructing subjects according to her worldview. First she chooses one of her photographs. Then she attaches it to canvas adding paint to the surface. In the final stage of this process she photographs the completed canvas, creating an evocative hybrid between two media, photography and painting.

Whether she is using a camera to frame the image or applying paint to canvas, Feric proceeds deliberately and consciously to create pictures of intense color and seductive beauty. Among her most ambitious works is the triptych The Wedding Chamber (2003), set in Morocco. This composition clearly defines the artist's signature style. With great facility she integrates what she has seen with what she adds later. The composition blends the mysterious doorways and apertures found in this exotic ancient city with the painterly approach to the landscape that surrounds it. The extraordinary use of color and sensitivity to the desert light establish an enduring tension between the real and the imagined.

Feric has stated, "I go deep into the paint and then into my mind, where I envision the sensations, the impressions, and the pulsations that I deeply felt while taking the photograph." For the artist, the moment in which the photograph is taken is filled with the excitement and anticipation of its eventual metamorphosis. The final photograph is neither anticipatory nor retrospective. Rather it is a perceptual and temporal simultaneity that is uniquely positioned in both the past and the present. Her titles, such as Spotlight, Recto Verso, and Continents on Stage, are evocative of this simultaneous effect.

The subject of Feric's photographs lies just beyond the open doorways, empty passages, and ancient objects that appear to have been abandoned just moments before. Through her photographs she communicates the random chaos of the natural and man-made worlds. In Feric's work there is a deep sense of illusion and imagination. Hers is a universe of endless variety.

Feric's practice transcends the popular notion of picture-making. With the passion of an alchemist, she desires to change our ways of seeing. And with tremendous dexterity she draws us into her pictures and allows us to enter her world of dreams.

Bryce Wolkowitz