The Fitchburg Art Museum presents the stunning aerial photography of William Garnett (1916-2006) in an exhibition on view through Jan. 1, 2012.
For over 50 years and 10,000 hours of flying time, Garnett piloted his own Cessna 170 airplane as he photographed out the window, using a variety of camera formats, with both black-and-white and color films. He flew above every state in the country, as well as in other parts of the world photographing images of forests, sand dunes, agricultural crops, and the American western terrain. His photos, mostly silver prints dating from 1951 to 1976, vary from pure abstraction to patterned compositions, all of which reflect Garnett’s discovery of the abstracted, dramatic, and poetic American landscape seen from the sky.
Garnett’s work falls into a tradition of landscape photography that includes the meticulous western landscapes of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston’s pristine studies of organic form. As landscapes, Garnett’s photographs do not have the conventional grounding of a horizon line. Often, the natural terrain he photographed from the air is made up of surprisingly ordered geometric patterns or ambiguous organic shapes that are not observable from the ground.
“Aerial photography in the 20th century served primarily as a documentary medium. William Garnett stands out as a pioneer in turning aerial photography into an art form. Through his camera work, Garnett looked for and emphasized beauty in the American landscape. With a conservationist’s turn of mind, he found pleasure searching out details in the terrain below him,” says Stephen Jareckie, curator of the exhibition.
The Fitchburg Art Museum, North Central Massachusetts’ oldest and most treasured cultural institution, is a world-class family-friendly museum with a permanent collection spanning 5,000 years. Visitors can experience a wealth of masterpieces in 12 galleries that feature American, European, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Asian, and Pre-Colombian art. Award-winning educational programs inspire all to learn about the importance of world cultures, art history, and contemporary life. The museum was founded in 1925 through a bequest of artist, collector, educator and Fitchburg native Eleanor Norcross (1854-1923). For more information, visit www.fitchburgartmuseum.org, or call 978/345-4207.