On the photo tip: Blue Sky Gallery has a pair of photo shows announced for next month that look rather amazing. San Francisco-based photographer Lucas Foglia's "A Natural Order" is a collection of photos taken over the course of four years spent immersed in a network of communities living off the grid in the South (they were published as a book with the same title last year). A scroll through them reveals a mix of beautifully composed and sometimes disturbing images, including a partially decomposed bear that the caption indicates was "poisoned by neighbors," a steaming pile of possum stew complete with a dramatically protruding tail (nice plating), meat soaking in a bathtub, and a healthy sprinkling of naked-person bits, all set against lush rural backdrops and some rather lovely takes on rustic home decor.

Raw goats milk, yall! Yum!
  • Lucas Foglia
  • Raw goat's milk, y'all! Yum!

Foglia describes the pictures as an "interpreted narrative" of life off the grid. They serve as an intimate portrayal of people who, motivated by environmental concerns, religious beliefs, and the global economic recession, build their homes using local materials, obtain their water from nearby springs, and hunt, gather, and grow their own food. His series depicts a real joy in the beauty of nature, and yet also the hardships of living in this way. "I wanted to see if I could find the absolute, if there were communities or individuals who lived off the grid and were wholly self-sufficient."

I can only imagine the stories he has to tell, and his artist's talk scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, at 6 pm is probably well worth attending. Joining him is New York artist Tamara Staples, who is a chicken portraitist. (No seriously, she has published not one but two books of chicken photos.) More on her show, "The Magnificent Chicken" beyond.

Very magnificent.
  • Tamara Staples
  • Very magnificent.

"Each breeder has spent years creating a work of art, where genetics is key. And each bird IS a work of art, from the amount of toes on each foot to the width of the wingspan, from the precise color to the exact weight. Judges carefully inspect every detail. But there is also something else: personality. Chickens can be haughty, angry, affectionate, shy, charming, sedate, or even funny. In this project, not only do I introduce these regal birds, bred to a standard that most will never match, but I also attempt to capture the individuality of each bird. Just like people, chickens are unique. Take a look into the eyes of these birds and judge for yourselves."

Chicken soup fans be wary, perhaps, but you can't deny that these chickens are intriguing. You may wind up with a bit of an obsession yourself. Staples' talk is scheduled for Saturday, May 4 at 2 pm, and the opening for both shows, up through June 2, is on May 2, 6-9 pm.