One of the very first photographs ever taken was that of a leaf, its brief life - a delicate shadow - preserved forever by the avid botanist William Henry Fox Talbot. Whether inspired by still life paintings or driven by a desire for a detailed and detached examination of beauty incarnate, photography has ever since claimed plants and flowers a favorite subject. Karl Blossfeld, Edward Weston, Robert Mapplethore and Thomas Florschuetz have emphasized the architecture and elegance of cut flowers, showing them in the cool light of natura morta (still life).

Sigrid Rothe, on the other hand, celebrates their jewel colors. Orchids, tulips, and even an aged lily swagger with the most intense hues of vermillion, indigo, emerald, or purple; they glow in her imaginary gardens in a delirium of hues not even the most generous tropical nature would paint. "Color is a kind of bliss," Roland Barthes has said, and even more than their elaborate shapes, it is the ecstatic reds and greens, the super-saturated blues and yellows of the blooms that first attracted Sigrid Rothe to flowers in the mid-eighties, when she moved to Manhattan. A passion for strong colors also characterizes her work (as a fashion photographer, stylist, costume designer for film).

For her flower portraits, Sigrid Rothe typically begins with a close-up of the bloom. By filtering sunlight through brightly dyed foils, she achieves the radiance of the spectrum,
conflating natural and artificial colors. With their extreme scale, her flowers are reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe's over-sized blossoms. But while the painter created big flowers so they would be understood , Sigrid Rothe aims for a different effect: her enlargements seek a radical abstraction that often dissolves a blossom into a rainbow of intoxicating power. Rothe's flower portraits intoxicate, proving the ancient definition of color as a drug ( pharmacon ). Calyx, sepals, stems and petals swirl away into a sweeping, psycheledic composition, into a vortex liberating the photograph from representation while preserving - or rather recreating - the sensuous appeal of the living plant. Organic matter - simultaneously fleshy and fragile, erotic and ambiguious - fills the frame to its very borders, there is no background, foreground or spacial context, just brilliant immediacy.The high summer of her palette evokes many associations with painting: looking at Sigrid Rothe's flower photographs, one thinks of the Fauves, Kandinsky, Nolde, but most of all of the American Color Field painters like Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell. They all appeal to what Aldous Huxley called a "biological luxury" - man's highly developed color sense: "Inestimably precious to him as an intellectual and spiritual being, but unnecessary to his survival as an animal."

Claudia Steinberg, N.Y.