Muscarelle exhibits transfix, reveal

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September 7, 2007

3:56 AM

Strolling through the Muscarelle’s much-anticipated exhibition of our nation’s foremost landscape photographer, one can easily recognize Clyde Butcher’s undeniable photographic talent. Numerous works by the so-called “contemporary Ansel Adams” exhibit America’s natural beauty with vast detail, stark contrast and sheer size. Less noticeable, but just as striking, are the emotions hidden deep within the wooded scenes of the large black and white photographs that consume the vibrant walls of “America the Beautiful: The Monumental Landscapes.”

p. In his formal artist statement, Butcher confesses, “Wilderness, to me, is a spiritual necessity. When my son was killed by a drunk driver, it was to the wilderness that I fled in hopes of regaining my serenity and equilibrium.” Rushing water, illuminated woodland, rolling clouds and arid deserts represent the heartache and suffering Butcher and his family endured. From Yosemite and Death Valley to his home state of Florida, Butcher has now devoted his gift to preserving what he shoots.

p. In 2000, Butcher was the recipient of the coveted Ansel Adams Conservation Award, recognizing him as the photographer who best used his abilities to further conservation efforts. This photography aficionado puts his talent to use by depicting some of America’s most amazing locations. Butcher works to further the goals of such projects as Visions for the Next Millennium, Message to Teachers and the Melaleuca Project, all of which focus on making sure the planet is as beautiful in the future as it is today.

p. The breadth of work exhibited in the College’s gallery is truly monumental. Upon entering the Muscarelle, you are greeted by “Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge,” an eight-by-four-and-a-half-foot congregation of water lilies and swamp grass containing such transfixing detail and contrast that your body refuses to move and your eyes decline to wander. The other snap shots range from rolling rivers to colossal overgrowth, and all showcase Butcher’s uncanny ability to fit massive amounts of America into the black frames and white mats of the photographic world.

p. Along with Butcher’s amazing portfolio of prints, the Muscarelle is offering an exhibit outlining the development of the College’s academic campus. “Building the College: The Colonial Revival Campus at the College of William and Mary” shines with weathered photographs, lifelike models and original blueprints of the campus, along with portraits of instrumental people who influenced the College throughout its history. The worn edges of the images showcasing the College’s architectural heritage are bold and straightforward, revealing its decisive expansions.

p. There is a display of recognizable color photographs that take what students see every day while traveling around campus and convert them into extraordinary representations of academic life and colonial tradition. Of the small collection of prints, the most moving are the vibrant shots of the Wren Building, which illustrate the artist’s skill and artistry.

p. Butcher will give a lecture on tomorrow at 2 p.m., marking the opening of both shows. Butcher’s exhibition runs through Dec. 2, while the campus exhibition runs through Nov. 4.

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