New England Survey @ PRC Boston
This exhibition surveys contemporary work from, of, and about the New England landscape, featuring one artist from (or project based in) each of the 6 New England states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. The photographers/projects include Barbara Bosworth, Jonathan Sharlin, Tanja Alexia Hollander, Janet L. Pritchard, Thad Russell, and Paul Taylor. New England Survey serves as an occasion and a location in which we can meditate upon on the grander, ineffable “sense of place” unique to this area.
Barbara Bosworth, famous for her "Trees: National Champions" series, continues her work with the 8x10 view camera. She continues with this work in color however, and the work begs to ask why she hasn't always been shooting color! The new series is titled "Meadow, Carlisle, Massachusetts." The work is printed extraordinarily well at 40"x50". I especially like the way each print has a different color palette. It really feels like the color pallette of the image is different and not just the color cast. The photographs show the cycle of a specific meadow in Massachusetts.
Tanja Alexia Hollander joins the exhibition to represent Maine. Hollander uses a spur of the moment method of shooting, setting her focus on infinity and shooting from the hip. While the photographs are enticing and beautiful, as a local New Englander I find it hard to identify with Hollanders representation of the Maine landscape. All of the photographs exhibited are flat, drab, and full of fog. It makes you wonder why Maine is full of nothing but reeds and bogs. Where is the rocky Maine coast and endless forest? While the photographs are quite interesting, they don't work as well in survey of Maine.
Janet L. Pritchard's work focuses on the historical nature of man's interaction with the New England landscape, and the marks he has left behind. Sometimes it seems like the New England woods are litered with history. Behind every tree are the remains of a farmers handmade wall, each stone pulled from his field so he could provide for his family. It actually makes you wonder why settlers were stupid enough to try and farm land chock full of rocks. Every New Englander has at one time or another come across history in their own backyard, and Pritchard's work is about just that. She combines Polaroid Type 55 negatives with digital processes and samples the tones of traditional tintypes to create a process all her own. The reference to 19th century photography is more interesting than the melding of traditional and digital processes. This work may have been even more effective if it was made from wet collodion negatives. It would have been hard to view this work as a contact printed alternative process such as platinum/palladium because the small size would have limited the viewing of the work.
Thad Russell created work in the wake of his Mother's death caused by cancer. He split his time between his home in Providence and his parent's home in northern Vermont. The work is interesting, but seems very personal. The statement talks about the work in regards to his parents "off the grid" lifestyle of living with the land, but the information about Russell's mother is like a monkey on your back you just can't get off. Once the viewer knows that information the work completely transforms into something else. The idea of a family living with their land in a modern society is an interesting one, and is actually being explored by a contemporary of mine, Adam DuComb. Russell's work however is detached and vague and therefor quite ineffective. The most interesting thing about his part in the exhibition was his choice of framing. Russell used what appears to be untreated wood for his frames, which is the only choice of exhibition in the group to connect to the landscape. I found this an interesting choice of frame material but was contested by many of my colleagues. They found the choice tacky and unnecessary. To each is own I suppose.
Jonathan Sharlin's work in this show is simple but enjoyable. Sharlin is an avid outdoorsman and often brings his 4x5 Camera with him. The images for this exhibition were created at his favorite spots in Rhode Island, and are luscious black and white inkjet prints created from scanned Type 55 negatives. (There are two artists in this show who will be very disappointed about the cease of production of Polaroid film.) The work emphasizes the experiential quality of a walk in the woods.
Paul Taylor uses wet plate collodion negatives and sellenium toned silver gelatin prints stained with tea to create images which are a timeless representation of the rivers of New England. The prints are quite large and have the feel of vintage photographs and Luminist paintings, yet with a contemporary aura. Taylor has mastered his craft and does not sacrifice detail for aesthetic. His images are bold and detailed, as well as soft and manageable. His images certainly give a fresh look at the New England landscape, while referencing the history of photography, and the history of the landscape itself.
New England Survey Online
The PRC invites you to share your photographs with our new Flickr group, "New England Survey Online." This is an un-curated, open opportunity for all to share and discuss photographs which resonate with our upcoming exhibition and asks "What is New England about New England landscape?" We are hoping to gather together images that explore a state of mind and a sense of place that is unique to this region. We invite you to post your thoughts about this issue as well as any information on your images (and even poems too!). Join us and show off your work!