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University Gallery

Current Show

"The Landscape Before Me: Cape Cod 1999-2012"
Photography by James b. Abbott

December 22, February 6, 2015
Reception: Thursday, January 22, 5-7 pm

Peaked Hill Dunes w/Shack, Cape Cod 2009, 48" x 20"


Throughout The Landscape Before Me: Cape Cod (2000 – 2012), James B. Abbott presents photographs as a way to communicate with his audiences about the world we live in. This project started when Abbott began taking photos on his family vacation in Cape Cod, specifically South Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The entire series took over twelve years to complete, which included between four and five trips to the area. His preference to work on long-term projects is due to his belief that they allow for more diverse interpretations. As a part of, the Peaked Hill Trust’s Outer Cape Artist-in-Residence Consortium  he resided in a dune shack in Cape Cod for two weeks with no electricity or running water. This experience allowed Abbott to completely immerse himself in the nature around him with minimal outside distractions. The opportunity of solitude allowed Abbott to learn and be inspired to create by his surroundings.

In this series and in most of his photographic works Abbott encourages his viewers to challenge how they think about a place. In this series Abbott uses solely black and white photographs, which is a stark contrast to the typical Cape Cod photographs, which are brightly colored. Abbott says that colors cover the landscape, rather than uncovering what truly needs to be seen. While many photographs in the series are of natural landscapes, Abbott also references the act of human interaction and interference with nature. Using large-format photography Abbott hopes to capture these landscapes in a poetic manner and present them to his audiences in a new light.

    I am a photographer and photography is the medium I choose to see, feel, and think about the world I live in. It is how I best communicate. My projects lead me to readings and research in history, geography, and literature which in turns informs my understanding of what I am seeing and how I capture it. I have used the medium in diverse ways to best match the craft to the image and an important goal for me is to reach broad audiences from multiple disciplines.

Description by Gallery Exhibition Reasearch Assistant, Kelly Wallace '16


Moor, Provincelands, Cape Cod National Seashore, 2005


     With the Cape Cod landscape work my vocabulary is chosen to reflect both permanence and mutability; human intervention imprinting the environment; and where sky, sea, and land blend into and mirror each other. I make two dimensional interpretations of this highly transitory three dimensional record of change: naturally occurring and that inflicted by human presence. I am acutely aware of the transitory nature of this landscape and work to capture “things as they are”, while there, for 3-5 feet of the dunes fall into the ocean each year.  Although color and color of light is a known quality of the Cape, I find that it coats the landscape rather than reveals or articulates it. I have chosen to work in black and white and believe it best describes the essence of this landscape. I seek image opportunities that describe and record this place not only geographically and environmentally, but poetically. My images were made through all the seasonal cycles of the year, with Polaroid positive /negative film and the final works are toned silver gelatin prints, and archival ink jet prints. The Polaroid instant on-site print is in effect a sketching and constructing tool.  As a visiting artist at Cranbrook Academy of Art, large ink jet prints 40”x 50” were made and opened up new and exciting possibilities for the work. I have been fortunate to have had two artist in residencies in dune shacks in the Cape Cod National Seashore [ 2003 and 2007 ] these provided unique opportunities and uninterrupted time, it showed me what was possible when the normal restrains most artists grapple with our removed.The Cape series contains both constructed, multi image panoramics and single wide-angle images. The panoramic [macro] images include a micro level of detail. With the single images [micro] the camera is protruded and close .5 - 2.0 feet from the subject and I seek to infer the macro. I have worked these formats back and forth upon each other, each phase feeding the next. This work has been exhibited as an on going project in a diverse range of venues from University galleries to broad audience spaces on the Cape like the Wellfleet Library and the Cape Cod Salt Pond Visitor Center. The two dune shack residencies, a program the National Park Service supports to perpetuate the creation of art in the parks, seeks to continue the instrumental role art has had in building advocacy for parks. One aspect of the three major bodies of in-depth work  [Philadelphia’s Water Front / Ben Franklin Bridge, Berlin: Pre and Post Wall, and Cape Cod] I have spent 30 years working on shares is they are studies of places in transition. With time the work is redefined the landscapes have disappeared or been altered and the work takes on the additional layer of becoming a historic record which serves an even broader community in a different way. A primary goal of the work attempts to deal not only with how one perceives a place or thing  but how one thinks of that place after encountering a visual representation of it.

James B. Abbott

Dune Shack CScape Syptic, Cape Cod National Seashore, 2007, 32" x 20"


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