Culture- ART FEATURE- Abandonment issues: Goldfarb looks into the overlooked

When you walk into the New Dominion Bookshop, take a minute to notice the black and white photograph in the left window. A quick glance yields nothing special– just a white cat sitting beneath a bare-bones tree. Closer examination, though, reveals the cat is actually a lawn ornament that's seen better days. The cat's owner probably no longer sees it, the weathered statue having become part and parcel of a familiar landscape. But for photographer Natalie Goldfarb, its very neglect is what makes it noteworthy.

Goldfarb, whose images currently hang on NDB's mezzanine, uses her camera to capture people-less scenes of human habitation, focusing on the overlooked and left-behind. Quiet and still, her small vignettes often convey a melancholy sense of humor.

For instance, in "Headless Deer," a decapitated statue of a deer stands on a lawn with its head placed neatly beneath its body. Like Bambi's worst nightmare, two cement fawns, one missing an ear, occupy a nearby pedestal. The roof of a house rises above a white fence stretching behind the dilapidated creatures. In this funny and sad scene, Goldfarb beautifully relates the white of the lopped neck to the painted fur of the fawns' ears and legs, as well as to the fence and patchy areas of snow on the ground.

Although her printing is uneven ("Castle" and "Boat," in particular, lack full tonal range), Goldfarb has a consistently keen eye for line. The geometry she highlights in her trio of industrial shed images is striking. She also subtly calls attention to eccentric, often absurd details. For example, in "Slide," which centers on the curving lines of a child's tunnel chute, a plastic castle lies overturned among the debris of an abandoned playhouse.

One of the strongest images in the show is "Swimming Pool," in which Goldfarb's content, composition, and technical ability successfully fuse. A plastic-enshrouded pool forms a series of parallel arcs curving horizontally through the photo's center, bordered at top and bottom by trees and their watery reflections. Meanwhile, a lonely inner tube floats in the lower left foreground, its black center echoed by the open door of a shed on the pool's periphery.

Unfortunately, Goldfarb's attention to detail doesn't extend to presentation. The margins surrounding her prints are awkward and distracting. Worse, because her haphazardly hung photos are un-matted, they pucker within their too-thin black frames.

Nevertheless, Goldfarb's exposure of what goes unnoticed is worth noticing. 

Natalie Goldfarb's black and white photography is on view through July at New Dominion Bookshop. 404 W. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 295-2552.