Douglas Busch: Italian Gardens
Douglas Busch spent the spring of 2003 in Italy photographing 11 gardens. The images evoke a trip to dream over: a stroll through gardens on an island with views of the Italian Alps, and on to villas on the plains of the Veneto and then to three in Tuscany, one of those in the heart of Renaissance Florence.After garden walks in the environs of Rome, this trek moves south again, to another island, larger than Capri and also reached by ferry from Naples, and yet further south, to the east coast of Sicily, near Siracusa, where the family that has restored the garden became the land owners exactly a century before Columbus sailed for India and found himself in the Caribbean Sea. This is a tour made in the shade of ilex arbors and files of cypress; the gardens are orderly worlds of foliage and textures, sunlight and cool shelter, terraces and manicured hedges. Flowers are few.
The hallmark of Busch’s extensive studies of landscape is a formal elegance that makes it clear the photographer was composing a vision of reality that extended rather than deconstructed the tradition of the Perfect Print. In the photographs of Douglas Busch, past and present are present and perceptible to the same degree, in the layout and contents of the gardens as well as in the images themselves, in the ancientness or comparative youth of the plants that they house. Busch’s camera never loses sight of the generous intimacy of Italian gardens that are such a characteristic feature of the paradisic nature of this country. And his camera never ignores the fine patina acquired over the centuries by these gardens, which continue to be prime examples of the art of spatial design under an open sky.
This taste of Italian garden images hints at main ingredients in Busch’s work: rigorously composed, visually complex, and almost always elegant. Though creating the Italian Garden images have involved very new technologies, those qualities have defined the artists work for decades.As a body of work, Italian Gardens is not only a contemporary vision of a tradition that has been transformed by centuries and altered by the influences that have shaped Italy. It belongs to the tradition of writers and artists exploring memory. Here and there, details persist in fully or nearly fully saturated color, but quietude suffuses the entire series. Approaching monochrome, image after image offers not the hues but the essence of remembered places, offering a slow walk through time.
Donald Doe, Grinnell College
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About Douglas Busch
Douglas Busch (born 1951) is an American photographer, inventor, teacher, and architectural designer known for using the world’s largest portable view cameras and negatives to produce the world’s largest photographic contact prints. His photography encompasses an array of subjects, including landscapes, cityscapes, nudes, portraits, and color, and is in the collections of major institutions such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Robert J. Evans, Director of the Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, MA, notes, “Busch’s combination of technical perfection and personal poetic sensitivity is truly overwhelming. His intense, aesthetic vision combines with his outstanding craftsmanship to produce strong works, simple and direct, yet redolent of the great artistic tradition that preceded him. There is a deeper mood and a quality of light washing through the cityscapes distinct in feeling from what we can see in most American imagery. Busch’s sensibility shines through always, creating harmonies that delight the eye.”
“I am interested in presenting reality more accurately than I can actually see it. On one level, my work is about a certain density. There is more to see than we can actually see.” — Douglas Busch
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