A. Baker, The Big Picture Show, at Eclipse Mill Gallery and
E. Berland/ W. Beavers, Somatic Movement Workshops
By: Astrid Hiemer - Oct 12, 2023
Alexander Baker, The Big Picture Show: The Drama of Gesture, at Eclipse Mill Gallery, until October 29, from Thursday to Sunday 11am - 6 pm.
Alexander Baker, Erika Berland and Wendell Beavers are all residents at the Eclipse Mill in North Adams, Massachusetts, where we also live and work.
Alex, as photographer, has a wide thematic interest. In this exhibition titled, The Big Picture Show: The Drama of Gesture, he photographed intensely during a movement presentation presented in a Beavers/Berland workshop. “He got us” was Erika’s assessment a few days after the event, where a number of residents and others had observed 18 participants move in what seemed to be a not choreographed event of, perhaps, individually fast or slowly moving or gesturing, falling or slouching and crawling on the floor.
Alex installed soon after the presentation an immense photograph on the outside wall of their studio, measuring 114” x 40”, nearly 10’ x 3.5’, documenting most participants in various momentary poses. The young woman, with a buzzed hair cut in the center of the photo, is dropping her arm just perfectly in a slow circular movement – at that instant.
However, while moving individually in a group there occurs action and reaction among participants, so physical free expressions can become naturally or instantly synchronized in same or opposite gestures. Improvisation happens naturally. I was invited to another morning ‘warm up’ by Erika and Wendell and photographed the group as well. I will show my photographs at another occasion.
Alex with his camera has been fascinated by the body in its expressive physical actions for years. In this show he presents three different occasions: While he and his wife Suzette Martin, a painter, spent a week on the schooner ’Mercantile,' of Maine Windjammer cruises, criss-crossing Maine islands from Camden to Portland, he observed the boat, the sea and the crew with his camera. The central shot in this exhibition, under the Eclipse Mill logo, is a female crew member, sitting on the Jib Boom, while blowing into their fog horn. It is a very moody and, well, fog penetrating image. The horn is actually an altered conch shell, loud and eerie, cutting through ‘nebel’ (fog).
He photographed members of the crew while making music - a guitar player and singer and a woman as listener in a very sensual, intimate moment. He captured it beautifully! Then, the crew rigging the boat or spending time with each other in conversation of quiet moments on deck. And there is even a couple dancing, swinging each other. The crew appears always barefoot. Finally there is the perfectly centered image of a male jumping high into the air before splashing into the sea, head first. All photos in this show are 40 x 60” and are mostly in black & white.
So, dance or physical and emotional movements are the remaining theme of this exhibition. The participants of the Beavers/Berland workshop comprise the second group here. Cleverly, Alex hung two images in the middle of the gallery, with a black & white photo back to back to a flesh colored print of the same image. The photographs are dangling by fishing wire from the ceiling. They are showing several participants in that frozen photo second, yet appearing animated. Then, there are four other photographs from the same day. He had positioned himself that morning in a corner of the room and away from other viewers.
Therefore he was unrestricted from taking photos and captured the entire ‘stage’ lined against the wall with several windows that are 10’ tall. The sun was shining beautifully into the space, leaving sun-shine with window-frame images on the dance floor, while highlighting the performers. Such is every photographers good fortune!
The third part of this show was photographed at New York University’s Steinhardt School final student presentations. They were receiving a MA (Master of Art Education in Dance) and here, one recipient is shown from the back as well as in a side position performing a single dance step. Such stillness! Two other photographs show dancers during a high jump. The lighting in the photographs is wonderful if natural or accidental.
Returning to the Beavers/Berland studio: Erika and Wendell have both gathered decades long knowledge in various areas concerning the body, inside and out-, as well as the mind- body (-and-spirit) connection and have been teaching at a very high level, nationally and internationally. Their workshop participants are often responsible for devising dance and theatre curricula at colleges and universities. They are also actors and dancers, and individuals, who want to take a break from their demanding cultural or creative positions, to take time out to sense and feel the self…….
What does that mean?
A Beavers-Berland Workshop just ended in September in Athens, Greece, at the Isadora and Raymond Duncan Research Center titled: Somatic Performers. These workshops explore the mind-body connection and the workshop leaders choose different aspects for each workshop cycle.
The participants documented in Alex’s show took, perhaps, during ten days a deep dive into the Elemental Body, exploring also developmental movement and –technique, viewpoints or mindfulness and awareness. Much more can be gleaned from their website: Beavers-Berland Workshops are offering in a highly academic or professional language of continuing research.
However, the photographs in this exhibition can be experienced and enjoyed purely visually and one may insert their own interpretation into The Big Picture Show.