, Gloucester, MA


October 18, 2013

Journal Pages:

I happened upon an amazing photography exhibit in a little art gallery in Vermont, where we had gone for a long weekend.

I stumbled upon it quite by chance, drawn in by what was billed as the main exhibit — a small collection of Edward Hopper paintings, mostly of the Vermont countryside.

While it was surprising to view a dozen or so unfamiliar Hopper paintings (his work, always lovely, with mesmerizing light and shadows), I was somewhat disappointed. I preferred the artist’s later work, especially paintings done of streets and houses in Gloucester.

The gallery sitter, an older woman, enthusiastic at her post, spoke to me as I circumvented the small exhibit several times.

When I turned to leave, the woman touched my sleeve, suggesting that I not miss the photography exhibit in the upper loft. I smiled politely, saying that I really didn’t have an interest in photography, nor did I have the time just then, to explore another exhibit. Insistent, she said I must make time; that it was extraordinary.

Not wanting to seem impolite or dismissive, I mounted the stairs to a small, second-story suite of rooms with very high ceilings, where I was at once completely absorbed.

It was a collection of photographs, many of them huge, by internationally recognized Canadian artist, Edward Burtynsky, who travels the world over, “searching out and photographing,” writes M. R. Taylor in his preface of the catalog, “places that represent the impact human consumption makes on the earth at its most profound.” And without a doubt, Burtynsky found his master subject in the depths of the Vermont quarries.

In an interview, the artist remembered looking at large buildings made of stone, and wondering where the landscapes were, from which the blocks of stone were cut, and how such altered landscapes might look when they were emptied.

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