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Edward Weston: A Photographer's Love of Life

September 11 - November 28, 2004

 

(above: Edward Weston, Untitled (Joshua Tree), 1928, gelatin Silver Print. The Dayton Art Institute. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Longstreth ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography.)

 

 

"I tried my lifelong to open the eyes of everyone -- my own eyes too -- by showing how extraordinary the most simple things are in this wide and wonderful world."
 

-- Edward Weston, 1956-57

 

The Portland Art Museum is showcasing the photographs of America's preeminent 20th century photographer, Edward Weston. The exhibition, Edward Weston: A photographer's Love of Life, is a virtual survey of Weston's entire career, featuring some of Weston's key photographs from the 1930's through World War II. Complementing the impressive selection of 103 rare vintage prints are personal letters and postcards from Weston's family, offering an intimate perspective of both the man and his career. A legend of modern photography and a contemporary of Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston focused the lens of his camera on the world he loved and in doing so, transformed everyday scenes and objects into poetry. (left: Edward Weston, Rosemary Syringa, 1943, gelatin Silver Print. The Dayton Art Institute. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Longstreth ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography.)

The exhibition will include vintage gelatin silver prints of Weston's iconic images such as Shell (1929); Dunes, Oceano (1936); Pepper (1929); Diego Rivera (1924) and Pelican's Wing (1931), along with 12 vintage Kodachrome color transparencies that were placed in a box in 1947, and which have never been seen since.

Driven to explore the power of natural form and beauty, Weston ultimately became a pioneer of modem photography and the first photographer to be awarded Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937. He became a member of a like-minded "straight photography" group of associates, loosely coined "group f/64" - the name derived from a lens aperture commonly used by large-format photographers. Fellow members of this group included Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Consuelo Kanaga and Williard Van Dyke, among others.

Financed by the Fellowship cash award, Weston traveled more than 25,000 miles over the next 2 years through California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. In the process, Weston exposed nearly 1,500 negatives of deserts, rocks, trees, and rusted automobiles. Weston knew that, "In a single day's work, within the radius of a mile, I might discover and record the skeleton of a bird, a blossoming fruit tree, a cloud, a smoke-stack; each of these being not only a part of the whole, but each, -- in itself -- becoming a symbol for the whole of life."

Having exhausted his creative energies with vegetables, shells, and other natural matter by the early '30's; Weston focused his talent on the breathtaking landscapes of dunes, deserts, and mountains that characterize his work mid-decade. Moreover, Weston's photography evolved through the years as his experience grew. His expanding abstraction of landscapes and increasingly high contrast images of the 1940s are a direct result of his tireless exploration and interpretation of ordinary subjects.

Weston's focus on the beauty in the world around him has since inspired a generation of photographers. His powerful work made people look at the world differently and helped them see the beauty in such simple things as a seashell or a pepper.

"As the story goes," commented Terry Toedtemeier, curator in charge of the exhibition in Portland, ''Weston's only sibling, Mary Weston Seaman, was a champion of her brother's talent and saved the gifts and personal cards and letters he sent to her, which included many of his best photographs spanning some forty years. After Weston's sister died in 1952, the cardboard box containing the transparencies was all but forgotten; hidden away on the floor of a closet in her bungalow in Glendale, California." (right: Edward Weston, Shell, 1927, gelatin Silver Print. The Dayton Art Institute. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Longstreth ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography.)

The exhibition also includes 11 rarely seen snapshots of Edward Weston and his family, dating from the first two decades of the 20th century. A display of Weston's personal correspondence provides insight into his family life. "The correspondence conveys the great warmth and love Weston had for his family and friends," explained Alex Nyerges, Director and CEO of The Dayton Art Institute and curator of the exhibition. "They dispel the notions of Weston as a loner and more accurately portray him as an energetic lover of life."

This exhibition is made possible in Portland through the generous support of Exhibition Patrons, Dr. Douglas and Selby Key of Key Laser Institute."Key Laser Institute is honored to support the retrospective of photographer Edward Weston and the Portland Art Museum's commitment to bring inspiring and significant exhibits to Portland," says Dr. Douglas Key founder of Key Laser Institute. "Weston's passion for natural beauty and form fuses the practice and care that has been the part of Key Laser Institute for 20 years."

 

(above: Edward Weston, Bananas, 1930, gelatin Silver Print. The Dayton Art Institute. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Longstreth ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography.)

 

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