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Below and on the facing page: Images from Kathy Vargas BOOKS & THE CULTURE Small Mercies BY ALIX OHLIN Kathy Vargas: Photographs, 1971-2000 Introduction by MaLin Wilson-Powell University of Texas Press 112 pages, $29.95 Kathy Vargas still lives in the house where she grew up, in a predominantly AfricanAmerican and Latino neighborhood in east central San Antonio. Ever since she took her first “serious” photograph, she has been documenting the lives of the people of San Antonio and, more immediately, her friends and family. That first picture, shot in 1971, showed the blurred, shadowed face of a local woman who had suffered a stroke. Though her work has subsequently evolved through many stages, the presence of illness and death has remained an abiding theme in all of Vargas’s photographs. Through hand-coloring, collage, and writing text on top of her images, she adds a haunting individual touch to the multiple medium of black-and-white gelatin silver prints. Vargas has been exhibiting steadily for the past 20 years, and her photographs are becoming increasingly wellknown. Her work has been shown throughout Texas, as well as in Italy and Germany. Last year she earned her own retrospective at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. Those who missed that exhibition, or who want to share her work with people who don’t know it, can use a nicely produced and reasonably priced catalog, Kathy Vargas: Photographs, 1971-2000, which comes with an introduction by MaLin Wilson-Powell, curator at the McNay, 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 2/1/02