BigTown Gallery- Rosamond Purcell

October 21st, 2008

I long, as does every human being,
to be at home wherever I find myself.

Maya Angelou

Perhaps that's why entering the warm and intimate space of the BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vermont felt so much like coming home. There was art everywhere that touched some sort of primordial connection within me. Stimulating, thought provoking imagery.

Gallery Director Annie MacKay is currently presenting an exhibition of work by world renowned photographer/collage artist Rosamond Purcell. The drive over the mountain from Brandon was well worth it. Purcell is an articulate, deeply philosophical artist. She spoke of her artistic and scientific fascination with transition from the natural, to man-made and, through the process of decay, back to natural. She also addressed an artist's need to constantly self-challenge and grow.
 Her compositions are richly textured, complex and fascinating. Museums  and zoology labs around the globe have invited her to photograph their collections. Some of the photo-collages in this show were composed with diverse artifacts from World War I: medals, photographs, newspapers and books, treasures unearthed in a Maine landfill, which she writes about in Owls Head, On the Nature of Lost Things.
Texture, patina, detail, color and challenging questions.
Purcell composes and photographs these elements, or shoots them as-is. Technical photographic expertise serves as her palette, with the occasional assistance of termites (no, I'm not kidding) and time.
Another component of the show was a series of photographs from museums and laboratories throughout the world: museum specimens of all sorts.

I was particularly amazed by a photograph of a calcified passerine nest. Through a millenia-long, slow-drip of calcium-rich water it has turned to stone.

The nest itself is as-found in the depths of a French cave. In the background, pale, fragile tissue creates a ghostly, other-worldly negative space, perfectly complementing the form of the nest. Having spent time climbing in caves immersed in paleolithic art in France, this link with truly ancient past resonates. Beyond any conceivable framework of time as we simple humans understand it, tiny hearts once pulsed within these eggshells. The ephemeral fragility of tissue could not be more opposite.

I had just purchased Purcell's most recent book Egg and Nest, having found it on Carel Brest Van Kempen's terrific blog, Rigor Vitae. (go there to watch time lapse photography of his amazingly detailed wildlife paintings and feast on his writings!)
I arrived at the opening with Purcell's latest publication firmly in hand in hopes of having her sign the book, which I'm glad to say, she did!

Copies of the book, and other writings by Rosamond Purcell are available at the gallery. Be sure to check out the website of Bigtown Gallery to read about Anni MacKay's wearable art, and their yummy selection of yarns.

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One Response to “BigTown Gallery- Rosamond Purcell”

  1. "She also addressed an artist's need to constantly self-challenge and grow."

    I think I am going through this and cause myself to be concerned about consistency. I am glad you shared, it is comforting. I love exploring through your experience and introducing me to this artist. I too am drawn to the nest…well I am a Robin.

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