Gymnopédies, Karotkin’s series of botanical portraits, takes its name from a trio of piano compositions by 19th century French composer Erik Satie. Void of connotation, the unusual title freed Satie from stylistic constraints and gifted his audience a new experience of music. Karotkin’s Gymnopédies encourage a similar foray in the realm of flower photography, disavowing context and the conventional notion that flowers are most evocative when captured in color and in full bloom.
With her black and white botanicals, Karotkin eschews sentimentality in favor of heady tonal interplay. The chiaroscuro abstracts and anthropomorphizes, exposing some of nature’s more subversive personalities. As with Satie’s work, these images pacify through dramatic texture, emotional provocation, and a welcomed dissonance. They are innocent and erotic still lifes in motion. For Karotkin’s color botanicals, rather than arranging the flowers and shooting them peak bloom, in a nod to Dada, the artist embraces chance, pulling dried poppies off their stems, letting the flowers fall to the floor, and shooting them in place, ceding control to the random hand of gravity. Though the flowers are dead, the resulting images of vibrant desiccation subvert funereal implications. Here, it is in death that these flowers truly come to life.