McCarty has been making both personal and commercial photographs for over 30 years, and both have brought him considerable recognition. But the effort to mount a major art exhibition is easy to leave aside when you are dealing with clients, raising a family, meeting deadlines. So McCarty continued to make the personal work - that's essential - but has tended to only show it in dribs and drabs, usually at one or another regional group exhibition.
Now, we have the opportunity to look at a broad and deep slice of those pictures - still limited to a particular long-term project or two, but a good choice was made to present a very personal segment of the total output, rather than a more diverse survey. It tells a deeply compelling story of lives written on the skin of those living in it, and of McCarty's place amid those lives as participant, observer, and compassionate collaborator.
More than half the pictures are of McCarty's immediate family - wife and children - including his first wife, Vicky, who died of cancer when their daughter, Kate, was still a baby. One of the most affecting images in the show (and no less so for being about 4 by 5 feet) shows Vicky and Kate from behind, their oval heads in rhythm, the regrown hair on Vicky's not nearly as thick as the first-grown hair on Kate's.
In this, as in nearly every image in the show, the subjects are unclothed; those who are not part of the nuclear family include a number of elderly Alzheimer's patients, and others of all ages. Almost never is the picture a "nude," though some get near that when the subject's face is obscured or cropped out. Not surprisingly, those tend to be the less compelling images.
Though the pictures in Skin go back to 1985, it is worth noting that these last three were all made in 2011, clearly demonstrating that McCarty remains at the peak of his creative and expressive abilities. Still, the exhibition works very much as a whole, as a timeline of one life's intimacies and contiguous looks outward in the form of portraits. McCarty's world is here, as is his world view. It is a vital viewing experience.
Rating: Must See