David Lusk Gallery | March 14–April 15
by Carol Caldwell
Jack Spencer, modern master of American photography, has two new books of work coming out this spring. The first, titled This Land, captures with consummate artistry the heart-stopping grandeur we take for granted in this abundant country, your land and mine.
Jack Spencer is haunted by the vastness of America and its majesty. His photographs have rendered spacious prospects beyond the reach of the interstates indelible for those who have eyes to see. It is those his friend Jon Meacham addresses in the introduction to This Land. He quotes Spencer’s fellow Mississippian Shelby Foote who said, “I want to teach people how to see.”
How better to shock people into seeing than by confrontation with an image apprehended through the mind’s eye of a mystic seer? Let’s imagine you or I are invited to join Jack on one of his many junkets across country, stopping along the way, popping a bottle of champagne, waiting for the light to get right. From the New York islands to . . . oh, stop it! Let’s just picture the sites we’d be treated to along the way, the books we’d read or listen to, the spats we’d have. Postcards from Ed, one of Jack’s favorite books, would be one way for me to rip through the plains states toward our westernmost territories in wildly high spirits. The postcards are environmental spankings from the cranky iconoclast Edward Abbey, the late prophet of park rangers and rebel desert curmudgeon cut from the same cloth as Jack Spencer, both radical protectionists, each in his own way, of the geographical lay of the land we were lucky as hell to inherit. Both visionary roughriders, Jack and Ed plead with us to hold on to what we’ve got before it’s gone.
“How better to shock people into seeing than by confrontation with an image apprehended through the mind’s eye of a mystic seer?”
We’d be listening to all colors of music on the road; Jack is a fine picker and singer. He is known to whip the pants off a bass guitar, and I like to think his best friend, Mickey Raphael, would hitch a ride for a while with us, blowing that plaintive harmonica to the compromised landscape blurring by. A few years back, Jack suggested I ride with him from Nashville to Sun Valley where we both have friends. I thought about it long and hard, I really did. He’d told about some of the great sidebar dives he knows along the way to score superior tamales and knock-your-socks-off homemade whiskey, way out yonder in the wide-open spaces, mile after mile, hour after hour of nothingness and togetherness. All I could imagine if we were to make it as far as the Divide was a ghostly maître d’ calling out, “Donner Party, table for two.”
“Jack Spencer is haunted by the vastness of America and its majesty. His photographs have rendered spacious prospects beyond the reach of the interstates indelible for those who have eyes to see.”
I mentioned two new books. The second one, titled Mythologies, from Jack’s series Creatura, will feature imagined mythological creatures sprung full-blown from the forehead of Jack Spencer, who begins his creative process, he says, from emptiness, ex nihilo as Carl Jung defined it in his final channeled work Seven Sermons for the Dead. The intersection of time and space is where any original artist begins, time being what moves the mortal to begin the process of imitating the Godhead by creating, and space being the locus of ancient places where other great beginnings myths spring from: Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, from American native people, from Mexico, Hawaii, Africa. This limited edition of twenty handmade books, published by 21st Editions, will be available March 28.
On March 17, at 6:30, Spencer and Jon Meacham will discuss This Land, An American Portrait at Parnassus Books, and the author will sign copies of his book.
An exhibit of photographs from the book will be on view at David Lusk Gallery from March 14 through April 15. An opening reception and book signing is slated for Saturday, March 18, from 4 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.davidluskgallery.com. To see more of Spencer’s work, visit www.jackspencer.com.