Celebrated contemporary photographer Abelardo Morell ’71 will showcase his latest photography project, “A Mind Of Winter,” at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art beginning Tuesday. In conjunction with the opening, Morell will deliver a talk in Kresge Auditorium followed by an open house and further discussion at the Museum.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the exhibition explores the theme of winter and climate change through a series of photographs taken at various sites in Maine during this past winter. The one-gallery installation includes 12 photographs focusing on unique aspects of a Maine winter. The title for the exhibit was inspired by a line in Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Snow Man,” which alludes to a metaphorical mindset of winter.

Morell’s artwork takes on myriad forms and techniques ranging from photographic illustration to camera obscura. “A Mind of Winter” represents Morell’s first extended visit to Maine since his graduation from Bowdoin in 1977. 

“It’s been exciting to come back to Bowdoin for this project as there are so many of my early experiences rooted here,” Morell wrote in an email to the Orient. 

Anne and Frank Goodyear, the co-directors of the Museum, worked closely with Morell to creatively document a Maine winter in all its complexity. 

“We thought that Abe, who is very interested in the tradition of landscape representation, might be up for the challenge of creating a new body of photographs that would relate to the theme of winter,” said Frank Goodyear. 

A member of Bowdoin’s Class of 1971, Morell received an MFA from the Yale University School of Art in 1981 and received an honorary degree from Bowdoin in 1997. Morell was the subject of a 2013 career retrospective organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, which traveled to museums across the nation, including the Getty in Los Angeles. His work has also won numerous awards, including the Infinity Award in Art given by the International Center of Photography in 2011.

Morell collaborated with Nevan Swanson ’18, who scouted locations and accompanied Morell during his series of visits to Maine, beginning in January. Though winter can be a picturesque time, Frank Goodyear explained, the challenge is capturing the nuances that wouldn’t appear on a calendar. 

“Winter is hard to photograph. It has such a minimal graphic beauty that the temptation is to make simplistic pictures rather than eloquent ones,” Morell wrote. “I hope that I succeeded in avoiding the trap of clichés.” 

Owing to his passion for art history, Morell’s photographs are filled with homages to American-European and Asian artistic traditions. Morell said he drew inspiration from Pieter Bruegel’s painting “Hunters in the Snow” when setting up his landscape photographs. 

Several of Morell’s photographs are done using cliché verre—a technique in which a sheet of glass is inked over before the photograph is developed onto the same surface. The balance between positive and negative space takes on new form in this technique, Anne Goodyear explained.

“One of the things that is so exciting for us about [Morell] is that he is somebody who loves playing with the essential elements of photography as a medium itself,” she said.  
Some of Morell’s photographs manipulate the viewer’s perception of the scenery, creating a virtual play between the figurative and the abstract.

“He’s always doing these creative interventions in the landscape,” said Frank Goodyear. “Oftentimes he’s creating new landscapes by inserting mirrors into the landscapes.”

“There’s a wonderful way in which [Morell] asks the viewer to step up to the plate and to become an active participant in the process of...playing intellectually with the question of what’s going on [in the picture],” added Anne Goodyear. “There is a metaphorical dialogue with the nature of the winter season itself, and what’s covered and what’s uncovered.”

“A Mind of Winter” will be exhibited from May 5 through September 27 in the Shaw Ruddock Gallery at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.