Nature, Technology Focus of New Rockaway Exhibits

by Arlene McKanic on May 6, 2004 for Queens Times Ledger

Queens Times Ledger 5-06-04

Gordon’s exhibit is made up of gorgeous prints she took of the fauna of the Galapagos Islands over two trips she made a few years back. There are red- and blue-footed boobies with their cute/ugly chicks, including one booby who has, improbably, adopted a frigate bird chick whose parents still come to feed him. Male frigate birds flaunt their inflated chest sacs like bright red balloons to attract females.

A seal lies on the surf, coated with sugar-white sand like a pastry while the nose of another seal makes a resting spot for a fly. A bright red Sally Lightfoot crab scuttles over pumice stone looking for provender.

The close-ups of land and marine iguanas make their pebbly faces seem as prehistoric as dinosaurs, though the species can’t be more than five million years old, as the islands, born of volcanic eruptions, aren’t more than five million years old.

“The way they got there was that they flew or they rafted,” said Gordon of the animals. She added that the islands, which all have several names in English and Spanish, used to be connected by land bridges. When the sea rose the land bridges disappeared and the animals stuck there had to evolve. Her marine iguana, who suns serenely on a rock, evolved from the land iguana. The marine iguana has a red body, while the land iguana is gray and black. Nobody knows why. The red coloring has nothing to do with what the lizards eat, nor does it seem to give any survival or reproductive advantages.

“It just is,” Holly shrugged.

When you look at these iguanas, giant tortoises and seabirds you’re tempted to find them ugly and ridiculous – they don’t call the birds boobies for nothing. They’re also beautiful and dignified, and this ability to capture both aspects of her subjects, the beauty and severity of nature, seems to be the talent of the photographer. Even her landscapes alternate between barren lunar views and lush, green pastures.

In one set of photos, a baby sea turtle who was unfortunate enough to hatch during the day is captured by the camera minutes before its death by a hungry frigate bird. Most baby sea turtles hatch during the night, when most of the predatory birds don’t hunt.

The turtle’s demise was all for the best, Holly said, else it might live to pass on its dumb, daylight-hatching genes to another generation of sea turtles, and so hasten its species’ extinction.

In another photo, the corpse of a frigate bird has washed up on the beach to become lunch for a bunch of Sally Lightfoot crabs.