From January through December 2013, Janelle Lynch was the first Artist-In-Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in a new program for researchers developing a discourse inspired by the work of Charles E. Burchfield. The Artist-In-Residence program is funded by an endowment established in memory of founding director Edna M. Lindemann, Ed.D., with support from Peter C. and Joan Andrews. The initial idea was to award two residencies per year to scholars and artists who are uniquely influenced by Burchfield. The recipients will use the Burchfield Penney’s collections and archives to further their own work and expand our understanding of Charles Burchfield as a person, artist, and poetic writer.
Photographer Janelle Lynch, a native of Jamestown, New York, was the first participant to be selected. For the past decade Lynch increasingly recognized a kinship in her work to that of Burchfield which started as the result of a series of her nature-related photographs. Widely exhibited, Lynch’s work is in several public and private collections including the Burchfield Penney, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, the Brooklyn Museum, the Fundación Vila Casas, Barcelona, and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Salta, Argentina. In 2013, the Southeast Museum of Photography exhibited work from Los Jardines de México (The Gardens of Mexico, published by Radius Books). Based in New York, Lynch is also an educator and freelance writer. Her newest monograph, Barcelona was also published by Radius Books. It features photographs of the fallow landscape outside the city when she was living in Spain from 2007 to 2011. With her large format, 8×10-inch camera and a portrait lens, the artist photographed pylons, puddles, leaves, and litter as metaphors for themes of absence and presence, mourning and remembrance.
During the past several years, Lynch came to recognize an alliance with Burchfield in terms of their parallel empathetic understanding of nature. They both imagine human-like characteristics in wooded settings; hence, they anthropomorphize their subjects. They both savor the sounds of nature— and the significance of silence when immersed in a terrain far from other humans. The more she read in Burchfield’s Journals, the more Lynch admired his descriptions of nature. As a consequence, Lynch committed to a year’s residency, coming to Western New York every season to photograph the landscape here. When she returned to her home in the Catskills, she looked at that landscape anew, photographing more of what she now saw through a Burchfieldian lens. In addition, Lynch conducted research in the Charles E. Burchfield Archives. Museum staff, particularly Nancy Weekly and Tullis Johnson, provided access to artworks, studies, journals, correspondence, and other documents to provide inspiration for the creation of images as well as equally honed verbal expression about her residency experience. She read other motivating books and essays by contemporary authors, such as Annie Dillard, and writers who inspired Burchfield, such as Henry David Thoreau. She also visited Burchfield’s boyhood home in Salem, Ohio and his gravesite in East Aurora to develop an understanding of place relevant to the artist’s life. This diligent and thoughtful residency resulted in a series of works that Janelle Lynch has titled Presence. Several examples will be exhibited in the Charles E. Burchfield Rotunda from June 13 through November 30, 2014. An essay by Nancy Weekly, head of collections and Charles Cary Rumsey Curator will accompany the exhibition. Below is an artist’s statement that articulates Janelle Lynch’s perspective on her residency.
Found natural still lives and trees as metaphorical portraits, the photographs in this series, Presence, depict my experience as Burchfield Penney Art Center 2013 Artist-in-Residence. The work has emerged from my intuitive process exploring two landscapes with an 8x10-inch camera and portrait lens: across the street from Charles Burchfield’s former home in Gardenville, NY, now a nature preserve; and in the backyard of my home in the Catskill Mountains. Presence celebrates my kinship with Burchfield, which is based on a reverence for and anthropomorphic vision of the natural world, an appreciation for solitude as well as close relationships, and a commitment to creative freedom.
Each image is titled Presence and includes a reference number and initials. The initials represent names of some of the people—in addition to Burchfield—who have been influential to my residency, including BPAC staff and supporters, literary figures, and personal relationships. For example, Presence 7 (AD) is named after author Annie Dillard who, like Burchfield, was inspired by Thoreau. I read her book, The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, at the beginning of my residency. A meditation on the year of solitude she spent in the Virginia landscape, it is a reflection on the art and act of seeing and communing with nature. The book inspired me to look at and embrace nature with even greater intimacy and affection. Presence 2 (NW) is named after Nancy Weekly, Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator at the BPAC. My initial connection to Nancy emanated from a mutual interest in Burchfield’s life and work, and has evolved through conversation, correspondence, and shared resources. Her enthusiasm and support have been essential to my increased understanding about Burchfield and to the development of this series of photographs.
Burchfield Penney Art Center 2013 Artist-in-Residence