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Photography Meets the Mystical in Marcy Palmer’s Starry “Burst”

Burst by Marcy Palmer
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($1200)

Would you believe today’s edition is a photograph? Well buckle up, buttercup. Marcy Palmer’s dreamy images defy logic.

Palmer’s 20x200 debut edition, Burst, is a perfect example of what drew us to her Unearthing Series as a whole. The Dallas-based artist builds the images in this body of work from the ground up, beginning by drawing and painting on a paper backdrop, shining a bright light from behind through perforations. She tinkers with her tableau through the introduction of dimensional elements, disrupting the visual plane with things like hanging wire, string, and branches. These materials are meticulously manipulated to create new forms and lines in her compositions. The result? A complex and suggestive scene that doesn’t exist outside of her camera’s lens, despite the vista’s evocation. A true fantasy land.

Palmer’s use of the natural and celestial in Burst is in part a way to ground this image in the familiar. It helps that nature and the stars have both historically been seen as conduits to the metaphysical, further blurring the line between reality and reverie. By using a slow shutter speed to catch this shot, she conveys a sense of movement, underscoring this edition’s ethereality. It’s like a memory—familiar, but dark, blurred and indistinct. There’s a trace of something tangible, but no details too specific as to disturb its otherworldliness. 

You can pick up on Palmer’s impulse to control the chaotic—as organic as Burst may seem, it’s a totally manufactured dreamscape. Tracing the silhouette of twigs against the bespangled black, we’re reminded of a constellation—and what’s a constellation but a way of mapping the heavens, of attempting to categorize the infinite.

There’s an impression that Palmer’s work is an attempt to come to peace with things out of her control, by making art that celebrates both construct and ambiguity. Which gets at one of the more profound aspects of life’s complexities—that something can evade explanation, terrify or confound, while it simultaneously inspires, enchants, or fosters a feeling of oneness with the world.

For Palmer, that meant the uncertainty, awe, frustration and elation of new motherhood. For a collector like you, Burst may bring to mind any number of sublime contradictions. There’s room for interpretation in this edition. Palmer’s print is proof that the impossible task of capturing the in-between is just maybe surmountable.

That’s what’s so absorbing about Palmer’s art—it makes us believe in magic.

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200