Morning Light

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by Celina Colby

Eleanor Briggs is one of the few artists able to completely transport you from a gallery into an ethereal, picturesque landscape. A photographer for decades, Briggs has become skilled at creating not just an image, but another world. This is largely due to her extensive travel repertoire. Her landscapes range from the natural world around her home in Hancock, New Hampshire to exotic portraits of Vietnam, shot with a color 35mm. “I like to go someplace where I can look around and see no one who looks like me,” says Briggs.


In the exhibition Morning Light at the Fitchburg Art Museum, photographs from Briggs’ trips to Southeast Asia are juxtaposed with her series on Moose Brook, a quiet stream near her home. In a multi-year exploration, Briggs would kayak out into the stream at daybreak to photograph the natural majesty around her. “There is not one shred of human evidence as I paddle along in my kayak at dawn,” Briggs recounts. This kind of reverent peace, so hard to find in the modern world, translates into her soft but powerful images. With an expert eye, the artist is able to take a modest New Hampshire body of water and turn it into something magical.

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While the Moose Brook photographs are as crisp and waking as the morning air Briggs shot in, her Asian landscapes take on a more stylized feel. The photographs evoke mid-century abstract painting, incorporating light, reflect, and natural growth in an almost impressionistic style. To see these two sides of the coin is to understand how talented Briggs really is. The ability to change styles depending on the energy of the location is a rare gift.


Often it seems Briggs uses her travel and her art as a way to commune with others. “I really enjoy connecting nonverbally with people who don’t speak a language I know,” she says. “It becomes a much more human communication, more direct and simple.” At first glance her photographs speak the same language. But the more you look, the more layers reveal themselves. Her images combine light, color, and place to create breathtaking natural compositions that bring awe to even the most urbanized viewer. It’s impossible to see one of her photographs and not feel that there is some greater purpose of which humanity is just a small part. This is intentional. Briggs says, “I hope that people will enjoy my work and with the large horizon pieces, that they can contemplate them and get enveloped by the calm, big space.”

Morning Light is showing at the Fitchburg Art Museum until September 6.
 

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Image Credit: Photos courtesy of the Fitchburg Art Museum.

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Celina Colby is the editorial assistant at Art New England magazine and the blogger behind Trends and Tolstoy.


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