February 16, 2001
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass. The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, reopening March 3 following an 18-month facility renovation, will inaugurate its new gallery space with a retrospective of noted landscape photographer Emmet Gowin from March 2 through April 22. The artist will give a public talk on Friday, March 2, at 4:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium, with an artist's reception at 8:30 p.m. in the Mead Art Museum. Admission to both events is free.
Since the mid-1960s, Emmet Gowin has concentrated on two separate but related subjects: physical changes to the human form and human alteration to the earth's topography. His luminous black and white photographs, whether of intimate family encounters or infinite aerial vistas of the Earth -- celebrate the mysteries of the natural world, of human existence and of creation.
Inspired by such diverse photographers as Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Frederick Sommer and Walker Evans, Gowin approaches his subjects with a reverence for their actuality and a concern that the fixed set of relationships reflect both its parts and our own feelings. Edith Gowin has long served as the primary model and muse for her husband's work, and he considers his images of her among his most important work. The portraits of her, spanning some 30 years, resonate with joy, humor and love born of emotional and physical intimacy as well as collaboration. Imbued with playfulness, honesty and dignity, these portraits detail the nuances of the aging process and the deepening strength of their marital and intellectual relationship.
Gowin's landscape work is an outgrowth of his domestic concerns. To him, landscapes "are our setting, our world, and our experience of a future we will not live to see. They carry our sentiments towards a future that only our children's children will be able to verify." Gowin's aerial photographs of the American West, dating from the mid '80s through the '90s, convey the abstract beauty of natural land forms marked by the disquieting scars of human activity. A 1980 project documenting the eruption of Mount Saint Helens from the air, prompted Gowin to shift his attention from natural cataclysms to manmade changes. He first saw the nuclear landscape flying over the abandoned city of Old Hanford on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, where the first reactors had been built to make plutonium for the atomic bomb. Since then, he has produced aerial photographs of the "Nuclear Heartland" in Arizona and Nevada.
Viewed from above, irrigation systems, nuclear test sites and waste dumps appear as elegant lines and textures in these subtly toned prints. The inherent duality in these images relates to Gowin's philosophy of photography and vision: "Photography is such an important instrument in the education of our feelings and perception because of its duality. Photography represents the world we know, and suggests a world beyond what we can see. Creativity is the gap between perception and knowledge."
As part of The Mead Art Museum's re-opening season, another new show, "The World Opened Wide: 20th-Century Russian Women Artists" will be on display from March 3 until May 31. This show is the first to draw on the Thomas P. Whitney '37 Collection of Russian Art, a recent donation to Amherst of works created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by artists in Russia and in exile.
The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. Admission and parking are free. For information call: 413/542-2335 or consult the Website http://www.amherst.edu/~mead. The Gowin exhibition and his lecture are sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.