Two for one at the Mitrani spaces

arts / Article


A still showing the sad lives of elephants in captivity.

The Mitrani sisters, with adjacent art spaces in Wynwood, have collaborated for the first time with a photography and video show from Chicago-based Colleen Plumb, and it’s a real success. Elegant and moving with a sense of whimsy in some cases.

Let’s start with Dina Mitrani Gallery, where the photographs are hanging. They all have some connection to nature, that of the great outdoors, and that created by man. A great example are two beautifully shot pieces grouped together, with trees as the focus. One features towering pines with a wet parking lot fronting the view at Mount Rainier in Washington, “Paradise Parking.” The reference here is to Joni Mitchell’s classic, about paving paradise to put up a parking lot; in this case, they have knocked down swaths of trees so we can park to see other trees. The companion piece is called “Lobby With Trees,” and again there are towering trees, except that these ones are crowding a building’s indoor lobby, along with the lone man behind the front desk – the scale is surreal.

Two views of trees. Two views of trees.

The photography part of Plumb’s exhibit is titled “Towards the Sky Again,” which fits very well with these photographs. But it is, in fact, a nod to a line from the famous novel A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.

Next door in Rhonda Mitrani’s Screening Room (which was recently named a Knight Arts Challenge finalist), two of Plumb’s videos unspool. The big one taking over one wall is heart-breaking: it shows a series of elephants shot at various zoos, and how the unhappy creatures weave back on forth, one foot to the other, swinging their trunks, the only thing to do in their captivity. The soundtrack adds to the sadness.

The smaller video, with headphones to use for this soundtrack, is lighter. We still see elephants, this time getting trained for their various stunts, but also a seemingly freer sea otter swimming around, young children playing and a pretty funny-looking gorilla grooming him or herself.

The many different worlds pictured throughout the exhibits hold together through the vision of the hand behind them. On that vision, she says: “Both the photographs and videos examine ambivalence towards nature and animals, and the complex and contradictory ways it is woven through the fabric of culture. I'm interested in the voracious appetite humans have for (re)-connection with the natural world, whether in flesh or in reproduction, with admiration or obsession.”


Colleen Plumb’s photography and video will run through May 31 at the Dina Mitrani Gallery and The Screening Room, 2620 and 2626 N.W. 2nd Ave., Wynwood;;

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