Andrew Wyeth derived a lifetime’s worth of inspiration from the landscapes immediately surrounding him: his home and studio in Chadds Ford and his summer home in Cushing, Maine. Having drawn his own inspiration from Wyeth’s paintings, photographer James Welling decided to visit the places where Wyeth lived and worked to see if he could discover some of that magic for himself.
“Wyeth was someone who taught me how to see,” Welling says. “I just brought my cameras and an open mind.”
Welling spent five years visiting the sites he’d come to know from Wyeth’s work since childhood, looking to match the perspectives he saw in the original paintings but also widening his lens to find other visual treasures. “Anything was fair game in these journeys,” he explains. “In fact, I found a lot of things that were interesting on the way up or turning to look 180 degrees from the Wyeth view.”
The results of those travels are on display end at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in “Things Beyond Resemblance: James Welling Photographs,” which presents 50 images from Welling’s trove of Wyeth-related photos. His goal was not to make a documentary record of the places that Wyeth painted, but to take a similarly creative view of the same terrain. Welling reworked the raw digital images through post-production alterations and manipulations to create an equally artistic interpretation.
The Brandywine is also showing Welling’s first site-specific sculptural installation, “Gradients,” at several locations on its grounds and campus, including Wyeth’s studio. Welling used a technique called gradient mapping on photos of these sites, creating a digital spectrum representing the range of colors to be found there; he then transferred these color maps onto metal plates, which are placed into the landscapes.
Throughout this process, Welling came to know first-hand the region that Wyeth strove to capture throughout his work. “Wyeth’s relationship to Chadds Ford was incredibly detailed and intense,” he says. “It’s like a labyrinth that he goes into. I feel like I was able to enter that labyrinth a little bit, but nowhere near as deeply as he explored it. He made this imaginary world from these everyday elements. I’ve begun to see them slightly in that way.”
Things Beyond Resemblance: James Welling Photographs
Aug. 8-Nov. 15
Brandywine River Museum of Art
US Route 1, Chadds Ford