We have had the pleasure of featuring Jeanne Widmer‘s work from past opens in a new windowAtelier classes, and this series, Grace Notes, is our creative vision today. Jeanne’s lovely quiet images stem from the quiet isolation of COVID and the ability see more clearly and look more deeply at the world that surrounds us. Her work is on the walls of the opens in a new windowAtelier 32 exhibition, and on our blog today. For more background on Grace Notes, we asked her a few questions.
Which of these images was the impetus for this series? How did it inform how you completed the series?
Like everyone, I squirreled myself indoors in mid-March, just after the Atelier 32 began, only venturing out cautiously with my camera on long daily walks in the neighborhoods of my town. Since I had previously spent three years taking photos of a large local town village development project, I was looking to challenge myself differently. Like many photographers,
I was first struck by the starkness of nearly empty streets, closed shops, buttoned up houses, and empty schoolyards, which reminded me of Todd Hido’s beautiful, often haunting work. But those photos were not enough. I began looking into the spaces for signs of life, details which made the scene come alive in a different way. I studied Helen Levitt’s precise detailed views of New York City and Matt Roberts, who, in his street photography, spoke of becoming more observant and open to the beauty of everyday scenes, finding some of his shots more powerful as diptychs or triptychs. When I first looked at my photo entitled “Spider,” reflections of intertwined tree limbs on a wet, red concrete, I knew it was the direction I wanted to follow. My eyes focused differently. I began noticing a trail of light on pavement, interesting petal filled puddles or drops of night rain on a floral leaf. I marveled at the reality that while we were all pausing and waiting in place, nature, never docile, continued its rainy march into spring.
What do you hope we as viewers take away from viewing your work?
The Covid 19 virus has destroyed many lives, robbed others of livelihoods or homes, and put families and individuals under intense pressure. At the same time, it has provided the opportunity for us to appreciate the human connections, routines and experiences which bring grace and joy into our lives. The pandemic has allowed us to pause and look closely at what essentially matters to us. Whether we look is our choice. By focusing with me on some of the smallest details in nature—in which a close up angle of an otherwise average scene is either unexpectedly satisfying and hopeful or can darken a mood by looking like the virus itself (“Molten Salmon Puddle”), I hope viewers can share and absorb a deep appreciation for the tiny moments—often hidden– that grace our lives.
How the Atelier has helped you hone your vision as an artist?
Having a 12-week course with a skilled photographer and teacher as well as talented classmates is a real motivator to develop a body of work. The challenging photographic exercises, the weekly feedback, the guest artist, and the encouragement and support in trying something new makes a real difference in developing confidence and focus. I hope to continue stretching my vision to see my world differently, whether in landscape, portrait or documentary photography. I am deeply appreciative for the Griffin professional staff’s continued dedication to excellence in its programs and exhibits supporting both established and aspiring photographers.
About Jeanne Widmer –
Growing up in Rhode Island shaped Jeanne Widmer’s attraction to worn urban locations and friendly, neighborhood businesses. An educator, counselor and writer, Widmer, from Belmont, Massachusetts, has studied photography at the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Griffin Museum and the New England School of Photography. Besides many group exhibits, she has had two solo exhibits, one which captured the vibrancy, color and dark expectancy of a single screen movie theater and another which highlighted the subtle drama and dignity of an historic, working class group of businesses. She exhibited with the Atelier 29th class at the Griffin Museum of Photography focusing on portraits.
Find her online on Instagram @WidmerJeanne