Mysterious, wonderful, frightening, inspiring. That’s the childhood world that photographer Kathy Curtis Cahill presents in her riveting exhibition “Memories and Demons” at the Artists Corner Gallery in Hollywood.
The photographs Cahill creates feature eerily realistic antique dolls, positioned so that they, like her luminous photography, come startlingly alive. Cahill describes the pieces as inspired by her childhood. “It was difficult,” she relates. “My parents were blue collar workers, and we moved around a lot. My father gambled and drank, and abused my mother. My brother was boarded out. I’ve spent a long time getting over being angry.”
But Cahill’s work offers her closure, and the viewer an insight into a world of childhood both vivid and insightful. “This project was cathartic for me,” Cahill says. “My parents divorced, but ended up back together, in a toxic relationship they couldn’t live without.”
What Cahill can’t live without is her art. “I’ve always been involved in art and photography. I took photography classes. I worked in film. I have been inspired greatly by Diane Arbus and Sally Mann.” She started “Memories and Demons” utilizing another long time passion, collecting antique dolls. The dolls are her subjects, and their haunting expressions and positions are profoundly alive. ow does she create her dolls’ life-like positions? “Through trial and error,” Cahill attests. “I use paint cans, sticks, props. I work with them, and create an environment for them.”
Cahill has been creating her unique vision for just under a year. She works without assistance, using a variety of natural light sources in many pieces. “My ‘Please Help’ was shot by porch light,” she explains. The naturalism of her settings, lighting, and interactions contributes to the surreal/real style of her work.
The poignant images show loss, longing, fear, and wonder, all in a very personal way that grabs the viewer by the heart and throat. Her first piece, “Small Comforts” was directly inspired by her mother. “I make these pieces for all the children who were traumatized, for children who are still affected as adults by what has happened in the past. I tell stories in images that children may not be able to tell in words.”
To learn more about Cahill’s dynamic work, visit Artist’s Corner, located at 6585 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. A closing night reception and artist’s talk takes place Saturday, August 8th from 7 to 10 pm and should fall in your “do not miss” category.
All Photos for this article by Jack Burke