Egrets steal spotlight in latest Caffery exhibit

Artist Mary Ann Caffery went in search of pelicans, but that’s not what she ended up photographing.

“I went to University Lakes at 6 o’clock every morning for six weeks,” she says. “The pelicans were there, and I was trying to photograph their feeding ritual. The egrets were just in the background.”

But they formed an impressive backdrop, enough to awe Caffery when she looked at her photos.

“And it was amazing how they gathered and reflected in the water,” she says.

And how they seemed to almost dance in an elegant ballet.

The egrets in Caffery’s exhibit, “Vignettes: Out of the Darkness ... Into the Light,” flow through her photos with the same elegance as would the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre performing “Swan Lake.”

The show runs through Aug. 29 at Baton Rouge Gallery, where Caffery has been an artist member since 1987.

Caffery is known for her paintings, but she’s been photographing Louisiana’s barrier islands for the past three years.

“I usually use my photos for reference for my paintings,” Caffery says. “But when I looked at these, I knew I had to use them for this exhibit.”

The photos almost look like paintings.

“And they’re theatrical,” Caffery says. “Having stumbled upon a subplot of egrets, I became consumed by what I observed to be a surreal setting that looked like an ancient, choreographed stage production in which the birds were the actors, entering stage left, exiting stage right. The could be scenes from Shakespeare.”

Or scenes from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” a story which includes the ominous doings of a black swan. If you haven’t seen the ballet, you’ve probably seen the 2010 psychological thriller film, “Black Swan.”

But the dark bird that shows up in Caffery’s photos doesn’t look so bad.

“I didn’t even notice him until I started looking closely,” she says. “He just popped up. But there he is.”

And though he appears as a silhouette against the flowing backdrop of egret feathers, the dark bird is still a part of the dance.