Paul Caponigro
Still Lifes 2004

March 18 - May 16, 2005
Reception for the Artist: Friday, March 18, 5-7 p.m

"At the root of creativity is an impulse to understand, to make sense of random and often unrelated details. For me, photography provides an intersection of time, space, light and emotional stance. One needs to be still enough, observant enough and aware enough to recognize the life of the materials, to be able to 'hear through the eyes." -Paul Caponigro

Andrew Smith Gallery presents its fifth exhibit of photographs by master photographer Paul Caponigro. With a distinguished career spanning over fifty-years, Paul Caponigro is regarded as one of the greatest photographers of our time. Still Lifes 2004 opens Friday, March 18, 2005 with a reception for Mr. Caponigro from 5-7 p.m.

Twenty-five new images made in between 2001 and 2004 will be exhibited for the first time at Andrew Smith Gallery, continuing the still life theme Mr. Caponigro has been working on since 1999. These superbly printed arrangements of weathered rocks, polished shells, rain spattered leaves, brittle corn husks, gnarled wood, and other organic forms invite viewers to pause and reflect on nature's subtle shapes, patterns and textures. The works also explore how light interacts with varying degrees of opaque and transparent surfaces. Underlying these surface concerns is a meditation on the transmutation of matter over time, and the unexpected beauty that appears as things weather and decompose.

Through his photography Caponigro continues to reveal the wondrous in the ordinary, and to explore symmetries and conjunctions that abound in nature. The exhibit continues through May 16, 2005.

The following works are included in the exhibit:

"Eye of Horus" pays tribute to the Egyptian prince of the gods who had the head of a falcon. In this whimsical arrangement Caponigro placed strips of tree bark around a wooden bowl containing a broken porcelain plate. Upon the plate's reflective surface the falcon's eye stares back at us, created from an eye-shaped shell with a pupil of black stone.

Clustered in a rectangular shape on a black background is a collection of round and oblong stones. This study in textured, pebbly, and smooth surfaces resembles a fragment of old stone wall.

White shells and shell fragments float within a deep black space, creating the impression of small, puffy clouds.

Caponigro placed highly textured strips of tree bark on top of a heavy piece of handmade paper with a feathery stain. As figure and ground move in and out of the same plane it takes little imagination to see a mysterious face peering through the mask of bark.

Caponigro painstakingly collected thirty-two leaves sprinkled with morning dew drops and carefully arranged them on a bed of thorny twigs to make this photograph.

Centered against a black background three wooden bowls lie one within the other. The smallest bowl on top contains a perfectly shaped rose. The composition is a spiral whose center is the heart of the rose.

Lying side by side a group of corn husks rests on a wooden board. The meticulous printing of this image makes it especially tactile, conveying the parchment like texture of the brittle husks.

In this vertical photograph three white bowls are stacked on a black background. The bowl at the base contains weathered white shells. The middle bowl holds black beach rocks topped with the remnant of a conch shell. A square black plate at the top contains translucent fragments and a clam shell.

A large conch shell rests in front of a gnarly piece of driftwood, each sharing a remarkably similar shape.

Ten leaves and thirteen feathers lie on a white surface at equal distance from one another. The photograph describes in exquisite detail their minute skeletal structures.

Master photographer Paul Caponigro has spent a lifetime exploring the natural world and architectural forms from antiquity. His vision has roots in Paul Strand's response to the purity of forms, and in the metaphysical/metaphorical tradition of Minor White, but Caponigro mostly finds his inspiration in nature. His printing reflects a heightened sensitivity toward gray tonalities, rather than the impact of strong blacks and whites. Caponigro's photographs always suggest deeper meanings. Whether the subject is a landscape, a solitary apple, or a ring of standing stones, his photographs invoke the promise of growth and regeneration mingled with timelessness.

Paul Caponigro was born in Boston in 1932. He was already working as a photographer when he first traveled to the western United States in 1953 as a soldier during the Korean War. During his army tour of duty in San Francisco he met and studied with teachers and students of the West Coast School of Photography, including Minor White. During these years he published his photographs in Aperture magazine and exhibited at the George Eastman House. In 1966 Caponigro was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship which enabled him to travel to Ireland where began his lifelong interest photographing megalithic sites. In 1976 he made his classic photograph of running white deer titled, "County Wicklow, Ireland."

After living many years in Santa Fe, Paul Caponigro returned to his New England roots and currently lives in Maine. His most recent book, New England Days: Photographs by Paul Caponigro, was published in 2002 by David R. Godine, Boston.

Liz Kay