LEWISTON — The Atrium Art Gallery has begun the academic year with an exhibition of large-format photographs by Bert Lincoln Call and a selection of bronze sculptures by acclaimed artist Forest Hart.

The exhibition features 35 large-format black-and-white photographs taken by Call during the early 1900s accompanied by quotes from Henry David Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods.”

The images reveal an exploration of Maine’s natural and human landscape that was then, and continues to be, in rapid transition. The exhibit is touring under the auspices of the Dexter Historical Society.

Early in its existence, the historical society received a donation of negatives and photos from Call, a photographer living in Dexter from 1886 until the early 1940s. Call’s stock-in-trade was portraiture of local citizens, but his passion was for the woods, lakes and rivers of northern Maine, which he visited annually.

By age 70, Call had traveled to the peak of Mount Katahdin no fewer than 16 times, lugging the heavy photographic equipment common at the time. His photographic excursions often lasted for many weeks.

Call’s images provide a photographic record of the North Woods, often of specific places Thoreau described in his book. Though begun by Call 120 years ago, most of his work has remained unseen. In order to bring this collection to the public, Frank Spizuoco, exhibition curator, contacted photographer Todd Watts in 2007 with the idea of restoring Call’s original negatives and then producing the large-scale prints that make up this exhibition. Watts is an internationally recognized photographer also known for his restoration work, including all of Berenice Abbott’s photographs.

Richard Judd, Ph.D., professor of history at the University of Maine, describes Call’s photographs as having two important historical dimensions. First, they represent a key development in the history of Maine’s tourist industry. Call’s photographs are at the heart of one of the most important developments in the rise of outdoor recreation in the Northeast.

Second, Call’s photographs document a wilderness landscape that had not changed significantly since the 1840s, when Henry David Thoreau’s lyrical essays on the North Woods placed the region at the core of the American concept of wilderness.

The website for the exhibit is www.callthoreauexhibit.com

The exhibit installation includes bronze sculpture by Hart of Monroe, who specializes in realistic bronzes of wildlife. His work is included in museums, educational institutions, public gardens, parks, zoos and private collections around the country.

From a childhood interest in drawing animals to an early career in advanced taxidermy, Hart eventually settled on exploring cast bronze as a more expressive medium. He produces an impressive list of animals from moose, deer and bear to otters, chipmunks and birds — often in dramatic action. Though his work includes exotic animals from around the world, the exhibition includes those that are indigenous to the Maine woods.

“I have dedicated my life and career to the appreciation and study of wildlife and art,” Hart said. “The woods, waters, mountains and tundra were the classrooms; animals and nature were the teachers; my observations, experience, and imagination are the results.” For more on Hart, visit www.foresthart.com.

The Atrium Art Gallery features year-round exhibitions of sculpture, painting, drawing and contemporary crafts. Located at the  University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College at 51 Westminster St., it is open to the public free of charge. 

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday throughThursday; 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The “Maine’s Woods: Observations by Bert Lincoln Call and Henry David Thoreau; and Observations in Bronze by Forest Hart” exhibit continues through Oct. 20. For more information, call 753-6500.

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