People don’t tend to know what’s going on under the highway. Neither did I.I had driven over this location for nearly twenty years before I looked. I’ve mentioned this area before, this is near the head of the Blackstone River in Worcester and Millbury, Massachusetts. The River winds, looking rather tepid at times, along beside the Providence and Worcester Railroad tracks and under Route 146, the main highway that also, like the River, goes from Worcester to Providence. Beside the River there also winds a Bikeway, part of the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor. The Bikeway is lovely in most spots, down here, it is more interesting. Here’s a short journey. (My apologies, if you are on a mobile device, you probably can’t see the embedded video directly. However, go here, and you’ll be able to have a look.)
I’m grateful to have found my way down there, with Chris’s accompaniment of course. FYI, the sounds you here are the combination of falling water and the echo chamber effect from the semi’s going by overhead.
I find this location to offer a powerful look into the quandary that is our relationship with nature.This is in fact a very beautiful river further south. It has its own beauty here.But, it also been abused for several centuries. Now there is a real interest in cleaning it up, and that is happening. But you can’t go back in time, you can’t reset the clock. The question is I think, what can we learn from our shared experience?
I want to give a major thanks to ArtsWorcester, the cultural hub for emerging artists in Central Massachusetts, for the opportunity to present a solo exhibition of my work in the Franklin Square Gallery at the Hanover Center. I’ve posted about the exhibition, “Under the Highway: Blackstone River Landscapes,” recently but the opening was held on the evening of June 27th. It was a terrific evening bringing together a wonderful combination of folks interested in the arts and the environment. In particular, I want to thank Juliet Feibel, Executive Director who took the chance on staging the exhibition and guided everything from start to finish, Kate Rasche, Program Manager who got it done in the trenches, Tim Johnson, Art Preparator who hung the exhibition and Alice Dillon from Clark University who wrote a nice piece on the exhibition for visitors who stop by over the next four months. The hanging of an exhibition as many of you probably know is an art in and of itself. If the exhibition is not properly hung, including aesthetically hung, the individual pieces of art lose much of their impact. It’s very hard work to hang an exhibition. I know my limitations and Tim will never get any competition from me.
Typically, it’s helpful to get your name in the paper, though these days I’m not always so sure. But there were two nice pieces in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, pre and post opening. Press and pictures from the Opening can be seen at that link. Nancy Sheehan from the Telegram also wrote her very interesting take on the exhibition which she titled, “What nature has given us” which you can also check out by clicking on the link. Thanks to the Telegram for supporting the arts with their coverage.
I have to throw in a another more general plug for ArtsWorcester. As a business person for too many years, my eyes and ears are always assessing how a business is run. Do they know what they are trying to do and do they provide a well orchestrated operation for getting it done. ArtsWorcester gets high marks on all counts even though they are not a large organization. I’ve worked with quite a few galleries over the years, and many of them are pretty shaky on both mission and execution. As some of you may also know, ArtsWorcester has just had a very successful fund raising campaign in a very short period of time. When donors are willing to vote with their wallets, something good is happening.
Finally, thanks to everyone who attended. Your support means so much.
EXHIBITION OPENING AT THE FRANKLIN SQUARE GALLERY, HANOVER THEATER, JUNE 27, 6 – 8PM. ARTIST TALK AT 6:15. REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED!
I’m happy to report that an exhibition of my work from the Blackstone River will be opening at the Franklin Square Gallery at the Hanover Theater in Worcester, Massachusetts on June 27. The exhibition is produced by ArtsWorcester and I’m eternally grateful for this opportunity.
The exhibition works were taken along the Blackstone River Bikeway, in Millbury and Worcester, Massachusetts. The Bikeway, which is an even better walking trail, was created during Worcester’s “Little Dig,” i.e. the reconstruction of Route 146, around 2000. I have been fascinated by the anxious beauty there since I first explored the Path in 2013. One can see the interaction of the River, the highway and the railroad, and society in the context of an urban park.
The River is both beautiful and long suffering. The bikeway was created as part of an effort to celebrate and restore the River through the establishment of the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor. The Blackstone has enormous historical significance as the engine of entrepreneurship in the new United States in the late 1700’s. Enormous wealth was created, thousands were employed, but the River was taken for granted. As I’ve described here previously, the River became one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Now, many folks are trying to help the River and the surrounding areas, but it’s tough going. I hope the exhibition contributes to raising awareness of the hidden beauty of the River even in this seemingly hostile environment, celebrating the work that’s gone into trying to help the River and at the same time demonstrating the ever present possibility that we could take our environment for granted at any moment.
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. We did, it was great spending time with family as always. I had much to be thankful for this year, including a more experimental attitude. Why not?
I’ve been exploring the Blackstone River area in Massachusetts over the last few months. It is striking just how much psychological as well as environmental territory the River covers. Though it remains quite polluted from centuries of exploitation, stretches of the River are quite beautiful and natural. Other stretches are, more complex. No stretch of the River though, at least that I have traveled, requires more effort to understand than the Blackstone Valley Bike Trail in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the River originates. Along this two mile or so stretch you will see the River, a super highway (Route 146), an active freight train yard and line, as well as legacy tracks, a Walmart and Sam’s Club, trees being cut by a beaver, beautiful small falls and rapids, trash and signs that say stay away from the water for health reasons. It’s all right there. Nature and civilization crash into one another at top speed in places and this is one of those locations.
I have photographed there for months, searching for the right way to capture the feel of such a complex place. I’d used most every technological trick I could think of, but ultimately wasn’t satisfied. I decided to go back and try again, this time with black and white film. Digital is just capable of making pictures that are too perfect for this location it seemed to me. Nothing about this location says “perfection.” This work, like this location, is incomplete and some of the images you see here may not survive the next cut. This is where things stand though at the moment.
Shooting on film is interesting of course. I realize that the look can be replicated in software using a digital means of capture. But that somehow doesn’t seem quite right at times. What is really different about shooting on film is the process. You do indeed slow down. You have to for economic reasons if nothing else. For a time, you have to step away from the technological (rat) race. It’s quite refreshing.
Tech Notes: Shot on Kodak TMax and Ilford Delta films using a Nikon F6. The later, for my money, remains the finest 35 mm camera ever made. Negatives scanned on a Nikon 5000 film scanner and finalized in Lightroom/Photoshop (You can’t really escape the technology can you.)