Melissa Catanese Blends Anonymous Photographs With Her Own
In The Lottery, Pittsburgh-based photographer Catanese turns her attention to the tense and confusing state of contemporary politics and culture. Her images bring together large groups of people, barren caverns, natural forces, physical exertion, and eruptions both crude and colorful. The accumulated manic puzzle shifts the viewer from a crowded street to a darkened cavern. Along the way, we see a geyser of oil, streaks of lightning, veins of molten rock, and cooling craters. Punctuating these natural phenomena are people in states of glee, pain, confusion, and anguish.
Catanese borrows the title from literature. In Shirley Jackson’s famous short story, a village casually embarks on a yearly ritual of selecting an individual and then stoning them to death. Catanese’s The Lottery teases out similar themes regarding ritual, culture, and the diffused accountability of a mob.
Melissa Catanese’s work blends anonymous photographs, press clips, and images from NASA’s archive with her own. Single images resemble sentence fragments that Catanese completes with her sequences. Sometimes seamlessly blending in, Catanese’s own images also act as punctuation throughout the work. This creates a sensation of call and response between the archival material and Catanese’s own images that brings to mind the Chauvet Cave in southeastern France. There, brilliant cave paintings date back 37,000 years. Over this enormous stretch of time, additional visitors added their own marks to the cave murals, sometimes with gaps of more than 5,000 years. The idea that collaboration can reach across time, decoding or willfully rethinking, is present throughout The Lottery.
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