It has been a true pleasure to see Gail Samuelson‘s work on the walls of the Atelier Gallery in Winchester this month. Her exhibition, Passing Through has layers of light, color and texture all mixing with the light and beauty of the gallery. Our visitors have been deeply engaged with the work, and its implied meanings. We wanted to know more about Gail and her work. We asked her a few questions about her creative process, her attachment to the museum, and to her beautiful works, and this is what she had to say.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
I first visited the Griffin in 2010 on a field trip while taking the Photography Atelier when it was still being offered through the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. I fell in love with the space, the light, and the quirky setting next to a pond. But what excited me most was the prospect of our class showing work at the museum. It was a huge notch up from the hallways of Lesley! What I didn’t know at the time was how many good friends I’d make and the sense of community I’d find there.
I took the Photography Atelier six times, twice at Lesley University and four times at the Griffin Museum. In the Atelier, I learned how to hone in on a project via assignments about portraits, landscapes, and still lifes until something struck a chord with me.
After the Atelier, I took Emily Belz’s Topics in Photography classes “Sense of Place” and “Light and Color”. In Light and Color, I made images of light passing through my house, some of which would eventually find their way into Passing Through. Both classes had a big influence on me.
Cerulean, Crimson, and Sunglow from the series Light House, © Gail Samuelson, 2021
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
Mostly, I photograph the small, often fleeting, moments I notice as I go about my day, so I always have a camera with me. I like to photograph light and shadows in my house with a digital camera and when I’m exploring the landscape, I bring along a film camera (or two) because I like to shoot my landscapes with film. I have favorite spots both in Sherborn and in Orleans that I visit often; I almost always find something new to photograph or a new way to photograph.
For artists, there are so many but to name a few, I love Rinko Kawauchi’s 2010 Aperture book, “Illuminance” and the way she uses light, color, pattern, and how she sequences images. And as I’m writing this feature, I took a break to buy Barbara Bosworth’s “The Sea” from Radius books! I’ve been spending time on the cape this summer and am interested in the way the camera lens captures patterns created by the interaction of light, wind, sand, and water. I have Barbara’s first Radius book “The Meadow” and marvel at her dedication to a particular landscape. I also love all of S. Billie Mandle’s projects and I’m eager to delve into Teju Cole’s “Golden Apple of the Sun”. His kitchen images remind me of another favorite, Jan Groover.
Please tell us a little about your series Passing Through, and how it was conceived.
The series began in a rare “Aha” moment when I was studying my prints from two separate projects: one of landscapes where I live in Sherborn and on Cape Cod, and the other was Light House that had its origins in Emily’s Light and Color class. I noticed a kinship between them and started making pairs: of light and color; inside and outside; concrete and abstract.
Each pairing is a visual conversation about the interconnectedness of place, between the shelter and intimacy of being in my home and the quiet landscapes I discover outside my door. The images are from different places, but they form a consonant union. There’s a term in music, “counterpoint”, a relationship between two musical lines which are interdependent in their harmony yet independent in rhythm and melody. I love that and see a visual analogy when pairing my photographs.
Because I use different cameras for each project, my diptychs combine a square shaped landscape that I get from my film cameras, with a rectangular image of light in my house that I capture with my digital camera.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
“Leaps of Faith” was either the last or next to last exhibit at the Griffin Museum in March 2020 just before the pandemic forced the museum to close its doors to the public. The exhibit featured the work of Armani Willett, John Horvath, Walter Pickering, and Barbara Diener. It was a marvelous curation and installation, and I am drawn to how beautifully Barbara Diener layers patterns of color and light over her images.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
I live next to Rocky Narrows, a Trustees of Reservations property so when I need to “escape”, I just walk out my back door and explore the woods. It’s a restorative tonic for all the senses. I also love Maine: Rockport and its neighboring towns, home of Maine Media Workshops and a good friend of mine; and Acadia. I enjoy garden spaces, so I’ve made my reservation to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay later this month.
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
On July 12th, we were dazzled by the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope. The telescope’s ability to register infrared wavelengths combined with its enormous mirror and pixel resolution allowed us to see light from 13.7 billion years ago, just 100 million years after the Big Bang and creation of our universe!
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a conversation, who would it be and what would you talk about?
David Byrne comes to mind. I’ve always loved the Talking Heads, his 1984 movie “Stop Making Sense”, the rhythmic layering of his songs, and his idiosyncratic movements on stage. My husband and I went to see “American Utopia” in early 2020 when it was in previews at the Emerson Colonial Theater, shortly before it closed due to the pandemic.
We’d talk about how he came up with his style of movement on stage, how he goes about writing a new song, and what he’s working on now.