Liz Haley
showing Connection at Newspace Gallery, 1632 SE 10th, through May

In the past, Liz Haley has exhibited large-scale color photographs that touch on themes of loneliness and isolation, but her recent work, Connection, moves in a new direction. For instance, she didn't actually take the photographs, which are culled from '70s magazine ads and insurance websites. The works are grainy, enlarged images with muted tones, and they are not glossy or perfect. They are re-appropriated images of extreme weather--a desolate ice cap, an avalanche that crashed into a kitchen, a beach rocked by hurricane winds--surrounded by felt blankets, survival handbooks and other disaster-related material strewn about the gallery. The Mercury recently sat out a rainstorm with the artist, discussing her new work and, of course, the weather.

How did you get started on this project?

I started researching extreme weather and survival. I became obsessed with events like the recent tsunami--you're sitting on this perfect beach and all of a sudden this disaster changes everything. Weather is one of the last areas that humanity can't control, and yet we're all affected by it.

And how did that lead to re-appropriating the images that you chose?

The more research I did for my own photos, the more I became fascinated with the images I encountered. I didn't feel like I needed to create something new, just to allow the audience to reexamine images that already existed. My past work dealt with isolation in the social sphere, and this is about linking the viewer to the outside world through universal themes like weather, fear and survival.

So that's where the title, Connection, comes from--you want to implicate the viewer in effects of extreme weather?

Yes. I want the viewer to see things from a different perspective--to reveal the possibilities of disaster and force people to think about what could happen. I want to shake the viewer out of a comfortable setting--to say "this could happen anywhere." What would people do? How would they survive after such an event? How does thinking about that change the way they view their everyday lives?