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Accidental Paintings: Photographs by Carol Stein

Reviewed by Allan Cogan

Here's a most unusual collection of photographs and Mexico Connect is delighted to bring them to you. They are all, despite the title, photos taken in San Miguel de Allende where photographer Carol Stein visited last year. All of them exhibit odd and striking views of the town as well as the unusual abstract approach that Ms. Stein brings to her work.

We have just a small sampling here of the contents of the book. At first glance each "painting" appears to be a work of abstract art, reminiscent of artists like Piet Mondrian, Braque and Hélion and other French impressionists. Take a second look and you'll see, usually to your surprise, that you are looking at an extreme close-up photo of something totally mundane, such as a plaster wall or a door lock or a piece of concrete work or a touch of paintwork on a wall - items that the eye would just skim over in the normal course of events. You ask yourself: who on earth would think of taking a camera and searching for whatever attractive or eye-catching images can be found there? Fortunately for the rest of us, Carol Stein obviously doesn't have the kind of vision that allows her to simply "skim over" these everyday items. They find their way into her camera and eventually into a handsome and striking book like Accidental Paintings.

As she writes in her introduction, "Wandering the streets of San Miguel de Allende, I see color. Focusing on built walls - edge or junction point - I find pattern and form; wild splashes creating raindrops or stage sets, broad horizontals banding landscapes, vertical striped urban scenes; Klee-like cubes; fanciful line drawings; fuzzy-edged color fields. For the most part, these colors lying so gently next to each other or colliding with passion just happen to be there. They are accidental paintings."

Ms. Stein's work has naturally caught the attention of other artists and photographers. One such is Xill Fessenden, an established professional photographer living and working in Ajijic whose work leans more and more to the abstract. Fessenden had a well-received showing of 30 of her works in Guadalajara in July. She confesses to being an enthusiastic admirer of Stein's photographs.

"Art reflects life and the photographs of Carol Stein present life in an uncommon way," she writes. "Her work enables an understanding of the 'accident' in these photographic paintings while at the same time explores truths within human visual realities. Her photographs also speak of the Mexican experience, not only through the use of color and texture but within the concept of the accidental. These images present a Mexican creative sensibility apparent in the creation of their architectural constructions."

Carol Stein is a painter and a photographer. She studied design at Harvard and photography with several leading practitioners in New York City. Her painted works on paper and her photographs have been exhibited in New York. She lives and works in Norfolk Connecticut and New York.

Xill Fessenden neatly sums up the reactions of people who have seen my copy of Accidental Paintings. She writes: "This hardback book of photographs is exquisitely designed and printed. Her camera and technique communicate with the content and the book holds together as a concise photographic statement. I would call it a must for photographers engaged in an artistic quest, important to all visual artists, and a provocative visual experience for all to enjoy."

What more can one say?

Accidental Paintings - Photographs by Carol Stein

Robin Hill Studios, Norfolk, Connecticut. 2005

Available from Amazon Books: Hardcover

Published or Updated on: September 15, 2006 by Allan Cogan © 2008
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