Hurricane transforms art in latest gallery exhibit

The Cayman Islands’ National Gallery began its new year exhibition “shorts” last week with a new exhibit called “Through Ivan’s Eye.”

The exhibit features a series of photographic images by writer and photographer Gretchen Allen, which she rediscovered years after they were distorted and “transformed” by nature during Hurricane Ivan, when her home was flooded.

Up to 2004, Ms. Allen had amassed thousands of images on slides that represented a lifetime of work. In the aftermath of Ivan, Ms. Allen discovered that a lot of her work was badly damaged during the storm. She salvaged what was left and stored them in a container.

At the beginning of hurricane season last year, she decided to reopen the boxes in which she had stored her slides, to find that they had evolved, in their deterioration, into pieces of abstract art.

On the National Gallery’s website, Ms. Allen describes the metamorphosis of her work: “What I found was both startling and surprising; explosive colors poured forth, as though someone had upended God’s paint box. Here, unexpectedly, were intriguing abstractions, French impressionistic pieces and cosmic cloudscapes. These images, capturing what once my eye had witnessed of the world, are here transformed, transmogrified. They no longer get their meaning from the story they once told, but rather from the story ‘painted’ by the storm. They now are Ivan’s works, no longer mine.”

Speaking at the opening of the exhibit Thursday night, Ms. Allen described this experience as a “gift” from Ivan, explaining that “out of this horrible destruction, there had been born things of beauty.”

Ms. Allen said she believes people who experienced Hurricane Ivan will be able to truly appreciate this exhibition.

As the National Gallery’s director, Natalie Urquhart, put it, “[the artwork] is really a conversation or a duet between Gretchen Allen and Hurricane Ivan itself.”

She added that she believed it “very timely to showcase this incredible work and [to] look at the beauty we can find in destruction,” especially considering last year’s devastating hurricane season.

The National Gallery will be running this showcase until March 1.

The gallery is hosting a series of five photography exhibition “shorts.” The next short will be “Solaris: Digital Solar Imaging,” by Dr. Bill Hrudey, which features photographs of the sun taken through the solar telescope at the observatory at the University College of the Cayman Islands. That exhibit opens Tuesday, Jan. 23.