Owl Scouts Lost in the Woods: Photographs by Todd Baxter 

Five stars

Mt. Comfort Gallery. If you've ever been lost in the woods, you might have come to the realization that nature is not a benevolent force. It looks down upon you with supreme indifference if, for example, you drop your flashlight into a burrow or fall into a cold stream. These are just two things that happen to the boy and girl "Owl Scouts," subjects of this show. Chicago-based Todd Baxter hired the boy and girl, dressed them in their inventive scout uniforms (the boy's incorporates a fox pelt) and used digital processes to create many of the scenarios that boy and girl stumble into. To say that these photos are staged is a little like saying Rembrandt or Caravaggio used models. That is, these photos, like the finest paintings, grab you and shake you and almost render any discussion of technique (flawless as it is) pointless. There is a narrative and cinematic force to — as well as an archetypical current running through — these photographs. Everything cumulates in a tragic climax that wouldn't ring true if there were any hint of irony or shock for shock's sake. (A couple of photographs, however, are indeed shocking and should be off-limits to young children.) Through Sept. 24; http://mtcomfort.blogspot.com.

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