Man-made works are touching views

Boulder Dam, 1941, gelatin silver print, 7 11/16 x 9 5/8 inches.

     (PNAN-ME) – Approached by the Limited Editions Club of New York in early 1941, Edward Weston was commissioned to make photographs to illustrate its deluxe edition of Walt Whitman’s epic poem “Leaves of Grass.” He saw the project as an opportunity to visit new places in the U.S. “Weston: Leaves of Grass” goes on display Thursday, December 30 through March 13, 2011 at the Portland Museum of Art, featuring 53 photographs that are exceptionally wide-ranging with particular emphasis on the man-altered landscape rather than images of untouched nature.

Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Fry, Burnet, Texas, 1941, Edward Weston, gelatin silver print, 9 11/16 x 7 5/8 inches, Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

     The trip lasted almost 10 months, covering 24 states and nearly 25,000 miles. Organized to reflect the route that Weston and his wife, Charis Wilson took when they drove cross country, the exhibition will begin with photographs of California and end with works taken on the East Coast that include two Maine images taken in Kennebunkport, one of the Wedding Cake House and the other of a schooner docked in the harbor. The majority of the photographs cover the southern states as they drove from Boulder Dam in Nevada, through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Appalachian chain.

“Wedding Cake House”, Kennebunkport, Maine, 1941, Edward Weston, gelatin silver print, 7 9/16 x 9 9/16 inches, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

     In addition to landscapes, references to America as a great industrial giant will be shown as well as the homes of humble artisans. Also Weston took portraits of native Americans and Hispanics, and photographed the architecture of elaborate Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans and simple Baptist churches in the Louisiana countryside.

     Before undertaking the commission, Weston wrote of the Whitman project to a friend: “I do believe…I can and will do the best work of my life. Of course I will never please everyone with my America-wouldn’t try to.”

     Over the course of the project Weston managed to produce some of the most compelling images of his later career that took his photography in a new and important direction.

   Like Whitman’s epic poems, they draw us into the history of this nation, the beauty of its landscape, and the forthrightness of its ordinary citizens.

Published by on November 2010. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Marketplace Guide, At the Museums dept, PaletteBoards Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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