In the first exhibition of her work since her death last spring from breast cancer, photographer Linda McCartney emerges from the cloak of celebrity that enveloped her marriage to ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. These photographs in this exhibit reveal her as an accomplished artist whose photographs captured the private dramas and transformative tensions that defined Western popular culture.

"Roadworks," which opens this Friday at the Center For Photographic Art in Carmel, features 50 large-format black-and-white and colored images curated by the Center''s Director Dennis High. The traveling show, which spans 30 years of images from McCartney''s most recent monograph, was first exhibited at the International Center for Photography in New York and has also been shown at the Butler Museum in Youngstown, Ohio. The current exhibit had been scheduled for the Center prior to McCartney''s death.

Solidly grounded within the mainstream of "street photography" that flourished from the late ''50s to early ''70s, McCartney''s work evokes such masters of the genre as Robert Frank, Danny Lyon, Gary Winogrand and Manuel Alvarez Bravo.

McCartney''s angular, dynamic images are infused with great irony and humor as she captures seemingly solitary existential dramas set against a broader media-dominated/pop-culture backdrop.

"McCartney was so successful as a chronicler of an era partly because she was on the inside, and in the way she distills images... [she] takes the ordinary, and through the creative process, distills the icon of the everyday with wry humor and fluidity," says High.

In what may be an art world first, Friday''s opening will be hosted on the Internet with digital stills of the opening being available for viewing online at the Center''s website, www.photography.org.

"Roadworks" represents a tremendous artistic coup for the Center--part of an ambitious, risky and somewhat controversial effort on the part of High to push the Center beyond its past parochialism to broaden both the scope of the work it exhibits, and to garner greater recognition for the Center as a cutting-edge art venue.

According to High, last year''s photography exhibit by actor Dennis Hopper, and this year''s show by McCartney, is part of a five-year effort to feature annually photography work by individuals who have garnered fame or celebrity in other fields of art.

High acknowledges the criticism that such exhibits are merely trading on the cult of celebrity and that works by Hopper or McCartney wouldn''t warrant much attention without the cachet of celebrity.

"I think its a natural reflex to say they''re only getting a show because of their celebrity, but why should someone with media recognition get dumped on?" asks High. "I feel strongly about the project, because being well-known for something else makes it that much harder to get respect and to get people to look at your work like other photographers. These people have a track record of accomplishment and renown, and there are a lot of celebrities who try to do art who are not recognized."

High insists the quality of the work more than justifies such high-profile exhibits, and that all photographers benefit by shows that highlight the Center as a major player in the competitive art world.

"Still photography is not media-oriented and doesn''t get much visibility," says High. "These people bring in a level of visiblity other photographers of renown wouldn''t, and I see this as a progression from [the Center''s] local focus to a balance with international stars as well as up-and-coming photographers."

Roadworks opens Friday at the Center for Photographic Art, San Carlos Street and 9th Avenue, Carmel. A public reception and opening will be held on Friday at 7pm. 625-5181. Through: 9/11.

Opening Receptions

Carmel Art Association "Monterey County: A Colorful Past." Recent work by CAA artists depicting MoCo''s historical landmarks and artifacts. Also, works by Eileen Catbagan, Mary FitzGerald Beach, Frieda Golding, Susan Jordan and Wilda Northrop. Dolores Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, Carmel. 624-6176. Reception: 7/11, 6pm. Through: 8/5.

Pitzer''s of Carmel Oversized cowboy-oriented watercolors by Nelson Boren. Two day exhibit and sale. 6th Avenue and Dolores Street, Carmel. 625-2288. Through: 7/11.

Seaside City Hall "We Color Outside the Lines." Works by Seaside Art Commissioners, past and present, including Walter Avery, Merlin Brown, Sandra Robinson Gray, Gloria C. Mattos Hughes, Patsy Hughes Irvine, Ed Krankshaw and Colleen Lingenfelter. 440 Harcourt Ave., Seaside. 899-6270. Reception: 7/10, 7pm. Through: 8/1.

Valley Art Gallery "Retro and Recent." Fiber art and basketry by Eloise Iverson. 218 Main St., Salinas. 455-1706. Reception: 7/10, 5pm. Through: 7/25.

Art Listings

Carmel Valley Manor "The Canals of England." Color photographs and stories of English canals by Mary Adair. 8545 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel. 626-4711. Through: 7/31.

Chapman Gallery Works by SC Yuan, Hank Ketcham, Ron Elstad, Keith Lindberg and Colden Whitman. Also portrait artist Gail Reeves will be painting in the gallery every Saturday. 7th Avenue, between San Carlos and Mission streets, Carmel. 626-1766. Through: 9/6.

Clark Fine Arts Impressionist works by W. Watts (early Carmel), H. Dooley (Carmel modernist), and YS Lin (contemporary). Cannery Row Antique Mall, 471 Wave St., Monterey. 655-0264. Through: 7/12.

Fireside Gallery "Crossing the Mirror." The exhibit includes photographs from two bodies of work by Mary Casanave. One group features pinhole photographs of staged scenarios; the other, "Beware the Dog," includes close-up studies of people''s pooches. At the Highlands Inn, Highway 1, Carmel. 624-3801. Through: 7/27.

First Murphy House Turn-of-the-century summer dresses from the Gallery of Historic Costumes. Lincoln Street and 6th Avenue, Carmel. 624-4447. Through: 7/31.

Gray''s Art Gallery "Jimi Claybrooks." Full-size reproductions of Claybrooks'' egg tempera paintings. 1104 Broadway Ave., Seaside. 899-1069. Through: 7/12.

Henry Miller Library "The Alchemy of Possibility." Paintings and art work from Carolyn Mary Kleefeld''s book of the same name. Highway 1, just south of Nepenthe, Big Sur. 667-2574. Through: 7/31.

Juice and Java Watercolors by Mary Ellen Okelberry. 599 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 373-8652. Through: 7/16.

La Mirada "Fragile Traditions: The Art of the Asmat." Traditional works by native people of New Guinea from the collection of Loet Vanderveen; "Armin Hansen and William Ritschel: California Paintings from the Permanent Collection," through 7/26; "Gardens as Art and Sacred Space," an exhibit that combines photography, painting, and mixed media installations that "rejoice in the extraordinary bloom of the garden, after our devastating winter." Featured artists are Elizabeth Murray, Mary Holmes, Susan Dorf and Jeanne J. Templeton, through 7/17. 720 Via Mirada, Monterey. 372-5477. Through: 7/17.

Monterey College of Law Plein-air paintings by Karen Kvenvold, sculptures by Kenneth Wiese. 404 Franklin St., Monterey. 659-3933. Through: 7/10.

Monterey Museum of Art "Jo Mora: Artist and Writer." Collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. Also works by Marie Brumund. Through 8/16.. 559 Pacific St., Monterey. 372-5477. Through: 9/6.

Morgan''s Coffee & Tea "Living and Breathing." Abstract paintings by Shane Ridenour. 498 Washington St., Monterey. 649-4613. Through: 7/31.

Pacific Grove Art Center "Collective Visions." Photographic works by the 44-member group, The Image Makers. "In Twisted Color," photographs by Cheri Gyuro; "Naturally Stoned," sculptures by Lauren Becker; "Saturday''s Nudes," drawings by Betty Rees Heredia and class. 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-2208. Through: 7/10.

Pajaro Valley Gallery "Collective ''98: New Works by PVAC Members." Works in many media by members of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council. 37 Sudden St., Watsonville. 722-3062. Through: 8/15.

PG Museum of Natural History "Leaping Elk, Dancing Men: Prehistoric Art of the Russian Altay." Photographs by Christopher Hulse. 165 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. 648-3116. Through: 8/16.

Rox Arcana Group show by members of Monterey Bay Metal Arts Guild featuring jewelry and other small metal works. Carmel Plaza, Ocean Avenue and Junipero Street, Carmel. 624-3122. Through: 7/31.

Sculpture House and Gardens "Spirit of the Human Form." All new works from Gay Gordon, Christopher Moon, Mark Bava and Jane Morba. Four miles south of Rio Road on Highway 1, Carmel Highlands. 624-2476. Through: 7/30.

Searle Art Watercolors by Mark Farina and works by his students from Carmel Adult School. 639 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. 373-0126. Through: 7/31.

Shallcross Gallery Abstract oil paintings and prints by Mira Kamada. Inside Galerie Monterey, 499 Calle Principal, Monterey. 655-0642. Through: 7/31.

Venture Art Gallery "I''d Rather be Sculpting." Abstract sculptures in several media by Ken Wiese. Resin-casting demonstration. 260 Alvarado Mall (in the DoubleTree Inn), Monterey. 372-6279. Reception: 7/18, 1:30. Through: 7/31.

Weston Gallery "Selected Artists." Photographic works by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, Yousouf Karsh, Paul Strand and Imogen Cunningham. 6th Avenue, between Dolores and Lincoln streets, Carmel. 623-4453. Through: 8/31.

Woman''s Wellspring Polaroid transfer photographs with hand painting by Clare Lerner. 575 Calle Principal, Monterey. 649-2320. Through: 7/31.

Zantman Art Galleries Premiere Carmel exhibit of still life paintings by Robert Douglas Hunter. 6th Street and Mission Avenue, Carmel. 624-8314. Through: 7/10.

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