Decompositions: Photography by Nancy Macko

Exhibition dates: October 5, 2024–January 11, 2025
Opening reception: October 5 | 7–9 PM

Nancy Macko, Odalisque, 2020, archival pigment print, courtesy of the artist

Artist and Scripps College professor Nancy Macko’s new body of work, Decompositions, transports viewers through art history and the cycles of life. In more than 40 photographs of her kitchen compost bin, Macko transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Discarded onion and garlic skins, apple peels, cauliflower florets, asparagus stalks, and artichoke leaves create both ethereal and earthy scenes. The images are simultaneously realistic and abstract, evoking artistic traditions from the Renaissance to Surrealism. A visual alchemy of art and science, loss and transformation, the exhibition is a striking exploration of scale and time as well as a serene meditation on decay as a new beginning.

“In these works,” notes art historian and Scripps College Professor Emerita Dr. Mary MacNaughton, “fluid space and diaphanous color seduce, then startle viewers, as they slowly realize that the forms depicted are decomposing vegetables . . . . During 2020, the COVID-19 year of social isolation, Macko began this photographic series when, as she explains, ‘my home was my solace’ and the ‘kitchen compost became a great source of inspiration for me, as it represented not only what scraps we could recycle, but also the love and care that went into the preparation of our food.’”

Decompositions is curated by Dr. Erin M. Curtis, Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Director of Scripps College’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. Dr. Curtis hails Macko as a “groundbreaking queer and ecofeminist artist” and likens her photographs to “French theorist Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopias as enumerated in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences: unsettling spaces that both mirror and distort the realities beyond their boundaries.” “Ultimately,” comments Curtis, “Decompositions reveals the infinite possibilities of the everyday, the discoveries that await those who seek.”

Decompositions magnifies and illuminates worlds within worlds, reminding viewers that every ending contains seeds of renewal.

Please check this page for updates on free, exciting programs offered in conjunction with the exhibition.