by Kathy Aron
The beef industry is an enormous and important business in Argentina. As such, animal rights and working conditions are rarely questioned. But when Paula Luttringer sees fear in the animals eyes and the horror of the slaughter, she is reminded of her past. Luttringer's exhibition, The Slaughterhouse, at the Houston Community College Art Gallery was one of the most meaningful, thought-provoking exhibitions mounted for FotoFest.
As a young woman, Paula was one of thousands of innocent Argentines who were kidnapped by the government and secretly imprisoned during the country's civil war of the late 19703. Like slaughterhouse procedures, the "Dirty War" wasan undeniably atrocious set of events that most would rather not know about. Although she is visibly uncomfortable going into any detail about her incarceration, she does point out the close association between the frightened, caged cattle in the slaughterhouse and herself. "When you are imprisoned, the only war you can fight is in your mind. ... The project was a way to reorganize thoughts and deal with the memory."
Her carbon prints are beautiful, full of depth and texture, yet simultaneously grotesque due to the difficult theme. Blood-stained walls, limbs suspended from meat hooks and frightened cattle are inherently difficult to look at. But it is this delicate juxtaposition of technique and subject matter that have created a truly engaging and important body of work.
Luttringer, who now lives in France, only recently left her career as a gemolo-gist to pursue photography. Her technical skill and deep, intuitive nature earns her a career worth following. Kudos to the FotoFest collaborators for bringing this emerging artist and her work to our attention. This is the kind of photography that galvanizes the medium.
= •Kathy Aron is director of the Society for Contemporary Photography in Kansas City, MO.