Photography, painting shows opening at Butler
YOUNGSTOWN — What Ansel Adams did for the Amercian West, Clyde Butcher does for the Florida Everglades.
Large-scale black-and-white photographs featuring the unique geography and horticulture of southern Florida are featured in an exhibition opening Sunday at the Butler Institute of American Art. And opening Sept. 20 is an exhibition focusing on the recent paintings of Mark Lysowski, a former student an faculty member at Youngstown State University.
Louis A. Zona, executive director of the Butler, said he first became aware of Butcher’s work when he saw a television news feature.
“He’s always been in the back of my mind,” Zona said. “When I found out there was a show organized, we went for it. I think it’s going to be a crowd-pleaser, to say the least.”
Butcher got his start as an architect. After seeing an exhibition of Adams’ work at Yosemite National Park, he began experimenting with black-and-white landscapes, and he left architecture in 1970 to focus on photography full time.
According to his bio, Butcher moved to Florida in 1980, and a trip to Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades in 1984 first inspired him to take black-and-white photographs of the swamps. His work has been featured in several books and six public broadcasting specials on the environment of Florida.
“He’s all about conservation,” Wendy Swick, public relations director, said. “That’s his purpose, to bring awareness to conserve our wild spaces.”
To create his mural-sized prints on fiber-based silver gelatin paper, Butcher uses a camera that weighs as much as 120 pounds that often has to be hauled to remote locations to get the images he captures. That camera is on display as well as photographs as large as 5-foot-by-9-foot.
“He’s carrying a camera like that around in a swamp. I don’t know how he does it,” Swick said. “I would be thinking, ‘I have to wade through a swamp. Why am I doing it with such a big thing?’ Everyone else would think about convenience. Obviously, it’s about the art for him.”
Zona said seeing the large works in person even was more impressive than the television report that first caught his eye.
“I thought I’d seen photography until I saw my first Ansel Adams,” Zona said. “That was magic. And this guy comes pretty darn close to that.”
The Lysowski exhibition opening Sept. 20 is one of two shows featuring the Campbell native’s work. Soap Gallery downtown is featuring a wide range of Lysowski’s art with some pieces dating back to the early 1980s.
The Butler show focuses almost exclusively on large abstract paintings Lysowski created in 2018. His primary focus for several years before that had been sculpture. The shift to painting was born out of necessity.
“It was space,” he said. “I was living in Pittsburgh and had to eliminate the welder and stuff like that. I transitioned back into painting. That’s where I originated, as a painter.”
He described his recent paintings as more playful.
‘There’s more color here than in the earlier work,” Lysowski said. “They were sort of, I guess you could say, a surreal, abstract expressionistic approach to painting. There’s a lot of that work down at Soap right now.”
Lysowski earned his bachelor’s degree in sculpture from YSU in 1985 and his master’s degree from The Ohio State University. He also taught at YSU from 1998 until 2011.
“He was a student in the art department when I was teaching,” Zona said. “He was always one of the most creative.”