Beginning with his early years working as a research photographer at the Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory in southern New Mexico, photographer Donald Woodman honed a photographic vision first through stars and clouds and then through sandy soil, majestic peaks and his own interior life. You can experience that journey in Donald Woodman: Transformed by New Mexico, in the Mezzanine gallery through Oct. 12.
The exhibit represents the first of a yearlong series of events celebrating all the museum has accomplished since opening in 2009. In 2011, Woodman was the first person to donate his photographs and materials to the Photo Legacy Project at the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives. Since then, numerous other contemporary photographers have added their archives, including Jack Parsons, Sam Adams, Herbert A. Lotz, and more.
Curated by Mary Anne Redding,photography chair at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Transformed by new Mexico includes more than a dozen examples of the Belen-based photographer’s work from the early 1970s to 1998. Among the images are ones taken at the Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory in Sunspot, NM, and intimate selections from his Therapist Series. Each one invites you to look deeply at the tones, forms and shapes; to begin to understand the relationship Woodman has with his cameras, his world, and himself as he moves quietly from behind the lens to placing himself in its focus.
“In many ways,” Redding said, “Donald Woodman is one of the stereotypical free spirits who arrived in New Mexico in a VW van in the early 1970s, searching for a new life unfettered by the conservative conventions and stodginess of the East Coast, to experiment with new-found freedoms involving hallucinatory drugs and liberated sexual exploration. And yet, Woodman’s long personal aesthetic trajectory, which continues today, is uniquely his own.”
After his initial New Mexico work at Sunspot, Woodman became a personal assistant to legendary painter Agnes Martin in Galisteo. In 1985 he married artist Judy Chicago, whose paintings will be at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Local Color: Judy Chicago in New Mexico 1984-2014, opening June 6.
Images above, from top: Sand Dune with Bush — White Sands, NM, ca. 1972. Silver gelatin print, 9×12 in. Waning Moon, ca. 1970s. Archival pigment print, 5×5 in. Two Boys in a Doorway, ca. 1970. Archival pigment print, 25×20 in. All photos by Donald Woodman. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, Photo Legacy Project.