Morris Museum hosts photo collage exhibit by Ysabel LeMay
Ralph J. Bellantoni, Correspondent Published 12:00 p.m. ET Oct. 26, 2017
Ysabel LeMay’s works pulsate with “wow” power. Her panoramic photography collages, or “hyper-collages,” elicit astonished “wows” so often that she adopted it as her signature acronym, interpreted to mean “Wonderful Other Worlds.”
This is also the title of her premiere solo show, featuring 34 of her large-scale, dazzling digital compositions, at the Morris Museum in Morristown through Dec. 3. Viewers often express a desire to enter into the imaginal realms that LeMay evokes. “Visitors can have a personal dialog with the work,” she said. “It’s a stimulating visual experience, yes, but it’s much more than that — it’s about reconnecting with your higher self.”
LeMay approaches the spirit of nature as her muse, having formed a deep affinity for the wilderness while growing up in her family’s secluded cottage in a northern province of Quebec, Canada. She now lives and works in Austin, Texas, where she nurtures and cultivates her connection to nature with daily photographic outings. She finds the subject of nature inexhaustible.
“It changes colors, it changes patterns, it dies and comes back to life again, so there’s constantly new material to work with,” LeMay said. “The joy is in the observation of that.” When venturing into the woods, strolling trails or paddling her kayak, LeMay always varies the scenery and explores new territory. “I like to be surprised by things, by experiences,” she said.
As LeMay traverses the hallowed spaces of woods and streams, mountains and fields, she merges with the spirit and flow of nature, until details of her surroundings communicate with her. She focuses on whatever particulars speak to her imagination, and dialogs with them through her digital camera, gathering photographic images by the hundreds for future incorporation into her hyper-collages. “It puts me in this space that’s very positive,” LeMay said. “That’s what’s transposed in my work.”
LeMay explores her culled images in Photoshop, applying the technical skills she acquired at college and honed through years of commercial graphic design work. She isolates a starting point, a visual or thematic beginning, and grows a luxurious panoramic visual narrative from there, integrating as many as 500 images into a flowing, hypnotic splendour.
“I want the piece to have something to offer–not just visual beauty,” she said. “I want something that has an impact — an energetic impact.” LeMay regards her intricate, sweeping, magical fantasy landscapes as channels for the flow of spirit. “I won’t allow a piece to leave my studio that doesn’t have that,” she stated emphatically.
LeMay operated a successful graphic design studio for many years before a more personal creative urge compelled her to abandon the business and embark on a painting career. A documentarian making a film about her lent her a camera, expressing curiosity about what she could do with it. Upon seeing what she produced after a month, he gave her the camera outright, with his blessings. She has not picked up a paintbrush since.
LeMay’s career got a boost when she won the 2011 KiptonART Rising Star Program, an initiative in support of emerging artists. Her work has appeared in over 100 exhibits since then, the Morris Museum show being her first large-scale solo presentation.
LeMay distills and amplifies the spirit of nature through her magnificent hyper-collages, presenting to viewers a visual elixir of paradisal perfection refined through her sharply attuned sensibilities. “I don’t look at a plant because it’s beautiful — I get in touch with its personality,” LeMay said. “I associate nature with joy.”
YSABEL LEMAY — WOW: WONDERFUL OTHER WORLDS
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 3
WHERE: The Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown
ADMISSION is $10 adults, $7 children, students, and seniors
DETAILS: 973-971-3700, or www.morrismuseum.org