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“Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home
When you call my name it’s like a little prayer
I’m down on my knees, I want to take you there”
Lyrics excerpted from “Like A Prayer” by Madonna
Nature lovers rejoice! In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the ultimate naturalist, “Walden” author Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), the Griffin Museum of Photography is exhibiting the exquisite handcrafted photographs of Koichiro Kurita in his solo show, “Voice of the Woods”, in the Main Gallery. In complementary exhibits, Lee W. Bass’ black and white images “Arbor & Frost” are showing in the Griffin Gallery and Steven Keirstead’s color photographs “Quarries of New England” is in the Atelier Gallery. Although I’ll share several images from these exhibits with you here, I want to emphasize that the full richness of Kurita’s work can only be appreciated in person, for reasons I’ll explain. All three exhibits will be on view through May 28th, 2017.
Koichiro Kurita quit his career as a successful commercial photographer in Japan to pursue fine artwork when he read and experienced profound resonance with “Walden” (1854) by Henry David Thoreau. Since 2010, he has lived in remote areas of the United States, in concert with the spiritual philosophy of simple and deliberate living expressed in Thoreau’s writings. In the last few years, Kurita has pursued Thoreau’s “voice in the woods” by following in his footsteps in the environs of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. With the words of Thoreau as his muse, Kurita visually expresses a kindred appreciation of the natural world.
In a desire to align his methodology with his mystical inspiration, Kurita has embraced the photographic techniques of one of the fathers of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877), a contemporary of Thoreau’s. Kurita’s adoption of such a laborious photographic practice is an adoring visual ode to Thoreau’s voice: the use of a high-resolution 8”x10” view camera (often transported by canoe); hours-long exposure times to create paper negatives; in-the-field (and very tricky) processing of salt and albumen prints on traditional, custom-made Japanese (smooth, long-fiber) Gampi papers. In bringing together these early methods of photography with Thoreau’s steadfastly mindful way of life, Kurita’s photographs express deep harmony with the natural world. His instinctive, emotional responses to beauty appear in the very fabric of each uniquely crafted photograph. The result is tactile, spiritual and mesmerizing. Just like a prayer, Kurita’s photographs take you there.
Although captured and printed digitally, the refined and intimate B&W images by Minnesotan photographer and printmaker Lee W. Bass in her solo show “Arbor & Frost” share the contemplative tone of Kurita’s work. Reflective and reverent, Bass’ images express the wonder of her natural surroundings through careful composition and the tonal and textural contrasts she achieves between subject and background. Her practice of carbon printing on toothy paper affords a luscious, tactile quality to her wistful and meditative photographs.
Inspired by Japanese painting and printmaking, Steven Kierstead has created sweeping multiple-frame color photographs in his solo show “Quarries of New England.” Using digital capture and printmaking techniques, Keirstead’s novel combination of documentary and fine art photography explores nature’s reclaiming of man’s industrial incursions. In vividly detailed diptychs and triptychs, Keirstead’s majestic compositions express a keen appreciation for nature’s treasures, the impressive ways man has harnessed them and the evolving balance between the two.
For hours, directions and more information about the Griffin Museum’s three solo shows celebrating nature go to: http://griffinmuseum.org/exhibitions/
Feature Image: “Sleeping Woods, Great Meadows, Concord, MA 2014” (Detail) Paper negatives by Koichiro Kurita (courtesy of the artist and 555 Gallery, Boston).