NEW CANAAN — At first glance, much of David Burdeny’s art looks like abstract painting.

The geometric patterns of blues, reds, yellows, violets and greens are so vibrant, so rigorously composed within the frame, that they appear to have been created with a brush. But on closer inspection, the images become increasingly lifelike. The shapes become oddly familiar, and subtle earthly references emerge: mountains on the horizon, arterial roads, trees and, in one instance, a building. Burdeny, previously an architect, does not work with paints. He works with a camera, and his subject is the earth depicted and defamiliarized from a height of 1,000 feet.

A selection of photographs from his most recent collection, “SALT: Fields, Plottings and Extracts 2015-2016,” portraying salterns — land where salt is gathered from evaporating water — shot from the skies above Western Australia, Mexico, the Great Salt Lake and the Mojave Desert, is being exhibited at Heather Gaudio Fine Arts as part of the gallery’s “Defying Perceptions” exhibition.

In addition to Burdeny’s photographs, the show includes paintings from Donald Groscost and sculptures from Jeremy Holmes. The works of all three artists on exhibit share a certain mind-bending quality.

“We titled the show ‘Defying Perceptions’ because you’re not really sure what you’re looking at until you start to engage with the work,” said co-curator Rachael Palacios.

The viewer’s initial confusion upon encountering Burdeny’s “Salt” series is a consequence of its singular point of view.

“Because of our proximity to the salterns, from the ground you would never know they existed,” Burdeny explained. “When you step back and get that aerial perspective, it kind of manifests the whole scene. You need the distance.”

Prior to embarking on the “Salt” series, Burdeny had been shooting aerial photography for close to 10 years, producing comparably disorienting images in Asia, Antarctica and Brazil. But it wasn’t until a colleague working in Senegal made Burdeny aware of the bright pink, saline-dense waters of Lake Retba, which owes its florid color to a pigment produced by algae, that the idea of shooting brightly colored bodies of salt water was born. After he had flown over the Great Salt Lake many times, for practical reasons he elected instead to start closer to his home in British Columbia.

In the course of a preliminary experimental weekend, Burdeny worked out an approach to shooting the salterns. He began by selecting a location and mapping his shoot with the aid of satellite images. Then he set off by air from Canada to Utah.

“At that point, it’s just a matter of luck. You charter a helicopter or light aircraft, either flying with the door off or getting one that can operate with the door open,” Burdeny said. “I’d fly in a grid over the top of the saltern at 500 to 1,000 feet, almost as if I was doing a survey.”

The entire process took three hours on average, only an hour of which was spent in the sky, leaving a small window for Burdeny to take photographs.

“He’s capturing these fleeting moments of time and light in these very remote regions,” Palacios said. “There’s very little reference of human activity. He gives us different angles — things that we don’t normally see. It’s all about the abstraction of the forms and shapes.”

Also, because of the altitude from which he was shooting, the project required a heightened level of precision.

“There’s a pretty steep learning curve. It’s much different from working on the ground,” Burdeny said. “You’re at the mercy of the weather. And when you want to step back and get a different shot on the ground, you can drive or walk. In the air there’s a whole different scale perspective.”

Burdeny’s dazzling images give new meaning to the term “aesthetic distance.” Viewers can scrutinize them up close at the Guadio Gallery through April 9.

justin.papp@scni.com; newcanaannewsonline.com