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'Photowhimseys'

Four cartoon elephants support a table that appears to be the sky, upon which rest an apple, a pear, a pumpkin and a vase of cut flowers.

Overhead, a full moon hangs in an alternate sky, a part of which is opening, door-like, to yet another sky with three hovering butterflies.

The image is one of a series that photographer Robert J. McWilliams and artist Mari Gayatri Stein call "photowhimseys."

The series, called "Pictures the Eye Doesn't See," is on display upstairs at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater until July.

There are ten pieces in the show, each a 16-by-20-inch image on bamboo paper in a 30-by-34-inch frames.

Each one mixes photography and drawing and comes with a whimsical story.

The one for the elephants goes like this:

"The elephants were getting tired of holding up the sky table for the still life. They thought that sky hooks would be better. They eyed the butterflies hovering outside the door, and thought of making a run for it."

Stein says the idea came from McWilliams, who in addition to being her collaborator is also her husband.

McWilliams wanted to take his photography a step further.

"Wouldn't it be fun and whimsical and other-wordly to make a table out of sky and have Mari's animals, creatures and flowers playing there?" he thought.

McWilliams is known for raising organic herbs and vegetables and running Bamboo Parc Nursery, as well as the carriage and sleigh rides he ran when the couple lived near the Greensprings.

Stein is that author of "Unleashing Your Inner Dog," "The Buddha Smiles" and other books. She illustrated Dr. Bernie Siegle's "Buddy's Candle." Her dog blog can be found a gypsydog.press.com. The couple married 25 years ago after meeting at a yoga retreat in the Bahamas.

He captures sculpture-like images with a large format pinhole camera, among others, and Stein creates pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings that interact with McWilliams' photo subjects.

She says the project seeks to provoke viewers into reflecting on the nature of illusion and reality.

"We enjoyed the collaboration very much," she says. "Once we decided not to share an office."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at bvarble@mailtribune.com or at 776-4478.

Work by husband and wife team photographer Robert J. McWilliams and artist Mari Gayatri Stein is now on display in the upstairs lobby of the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.