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TO NOV. 1
If David Lynch had been a photographer rather than a filmmaker, his work might have looked something like Julie Firth’s. A Washington-area native now based in New Zealand, Firth makes large-scale, digitally altered works that set side-by-side rows of 35mm photographs against a black background. The works are surreal and fractured, with sudden thematic changes; viewing them is like watching a horror film unspool frame by frame. Like the work of Jim Dine, Firth’s pieces are populated by obscure, recurring objects that hold personal significance for the artist: apples, women’s shoes, lingerie. Firth makes unexpectedly sexy use of posed mannequin torsos, but the reappearance of disembodied arms and handsnot to mention the occasional decontextualized headlends a more disturbing vibe. The artist’s sequential compositions recall those of Duane Michals, and her moody green-and-blue palette echoes that of Gregory Crewdson’s staged-narrative nighttime photographs. But unlike either of these artists, Firth adds the occasional bracing accent of red for visual emphasis. This trick works perfectly in her finest image (pictured)a frame from the Tender Veils Unarticulated series in which a woman is sprawled at the foot of a circular staircase. Lying on a blood-red spread of velvet, she could be a murder victim or a suicide. If all this seems hopelessly mysterious, it is. But, as in any form of dream logic, rationality is the enemy. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and Tuesdays by appointment, to Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Troyer Gallery, 1710 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 328-7189. (Louis Jacobson)