Much of the inspiration for local multi-media photographer Catherine Viox's upcoming show Synthetic is drawn from the world around her — be it a trip to Red River Gorge or watching her boyfriend eat oysters, both of which were ideas she formed in college that Viox says have evolved with time.
Opening on Valentine's Day at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Viox has brought together bodies of work that examine biology through a lens of aesthetic pleasure, questioning the division of items in their "natural" vs. "synthetic" states. As she explains, the latter references the process of taking items from their natural state and, through her artistic process, forming them into an altered, or "synthesized," version.
Viox cites the oysters — she renders images of vaginas on the mollusks — as one of her favorite projects she has worked on. The story behind them calls back to her college days at the Art Academy of Cincinnati; her boyfriend, who worked in a fish market, would bring home oysters to snack on.
"I had an assignment for my photography class to print on anything but paper and I don't know if it's the visual similarities or what, but as soon as I saw him eating one I knew that's what I wanted to do," she explains via email. "It started with five, then 10, and has grown a lot since its conception."
Those who attend the show can also expect to see photographic prints featuring "dead things" Viox has accrued in past years. Seahorse skeletons. Singular and full-sets of butterfly wings. Various animal bones and bug remains. Though it should be noted that the focus is not on the dead things themselves, but on the stories that can be told through their bodies.
Viox notes that she found most of the featured single wings during hikes, while the full sets were bought from estate sales; bugs and bones were also found or left to her as gifts via her cat.
"I love experimental photographic processes and pushing the bounds of what can be a photograph," Viox says. "Originally I scanned a butterfly wing out of curiosity and (then) realized the true power a flatbed scanner has: I could see each individual pigment. Over the years it has branched from butterfly wings to a little bit of everything."
Her personal faves? Pieces of bird skeletons, which contained other dead items and strange particles within — a detail she wasn't at first aware of — found in a friend's building on Fourth Street.
When asked how biology has influenced her work as photographer, she replies that most everything she comes across makes an impact, whether it's a conversation she has on assignment or a moment spent alone in the woods.
"Being connected to the earth was important to me and my family as a kid," Viox says, "and so was documentation. I think it just kind of stuck."
Synthetic opens 5-7 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (2728 Short Vine St., Clifton) and runs through March 13. Post-opening, gallery hours are by appointment or noon-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays. For more info, visit cliftonculturalarts.org.