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I WENT TO THE WOODS

S.B. Walker, Target Bag, March 2011.


EXTOLLING WALDEN’S HALLOWED SHORES

James Foritano

Thoreau at home…and “abroad”

I don’t actually know if Thoreau traveled abroad physically, but his astral body was in constant movement. One moment he was looking deeply at what exists, then that place would become an idea that would go on to become the seed for what we now know as environmentalism.

In one of the two exhibits currently celebrating Thoreau’s bicentennial in Concord, photographer Abelardo “Abe” Morell dusts a few inches of Walden’s twig- and-rock-strewn shore with white baker’s flour in the shape of the pond itself at the Concord Museum, which presents the work as part of its year-long “Be Thoreau” initiative. The baker’s flour will dissipate into the soil harmlessly, but the symbol of Thoreau’s bifocal view of nature is indelible. The sage of Walden lingered locally. And then he flew.

Another of the four large Morell photographs — each one faithfully optical but also ingeniously cerebral — visually depicts a remark by Thoreau that Walden’s waters mix with those of India’s sacred river, the Ganges. Using a technique from the beginnings of photography, called “Cliché Verre” in French, Morell draws his view of this turbulent, fecund mix of Indian philosophy and New England transcendentalism in ink and brush on glass in buoyant lines, then photographs those lines as if he and we were glimpsing them in nature — an idea becomes real, and then viewed on a slant it becomes, again, an idea.

Morell’s “Four Views” will be at the Concord Museum in their own doubleroomed gallery for your contemplation until August 20. It will be followed by “This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal,” a show collaboratively curated with the Morgan Library & Museum of New York, from September 29 through January 21, 2018.

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