THE JOYOUS MESSAGES OF NATURE
The artwork of Frank V. Dudley represented perhaps one of the greatest assets in the ongoing struggle by concerned citizens to have land along the northwest Indiana coast of Lake Michigan designated as protected property, preferably as federal or state parkland, during the first half of the twentieth century. Dudley was a leader in the Prairie Club’s movement to preserve the lakeshore and adjacent terrain. Indeed, Dudley was known as the “Painter of the Dunes,” and his images persuaded many to declare value in the natural beauty of the landscape throughout the Indiana Dunes.
Because 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Dudley’s birth year (November 14, 1868), the time seems right to examine the continuing splendor of the scenery to which he dedicated himself, especially locations within the grounds of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park, those two entities that were established in part due to Dudley’s efforts. (Though the artist witnessed and appreciated the creation of Indiana Dunes Sate Park in 1925—and even continued to live in his beachfront studio cabin situated among the sand dunes through an agreement reached with the state—he unfortunately did not live to see the official recognition of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966.) Additionally, this year seems particularly noteworthy since Congress is expected to re-designate the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a “national park” in 2018.
Consequently, throughout the year I will display photo essays consisting of sets with images from the Indiana Dunes that share a thematic or photographic commonality. These concise exhibits intend to evoke emotional reactions to the aesthetically pleasing scenes depicted, primarily through the appeal of the artistic photographs and with only a little assistance from prose commentary, captions, or titles.
In my process of gathering together these photo essays, I will keep in mind a comment Frank V. Dudley once stated in a 1936 newspaper interview as words of advice to those who might follow him: “I believe the artist, through his study and close contact with the landscape, is enabled to see more and feel more the joyous messages of nature and that his real mission in life should be to interpret and reveal these truths that all may see and experience the same emotional reactions as does the artist himself.”
(Click images to create carousel gallery display where full size may be viewed as well.)
Beach Trees During Seasonal Shifts: January, 2018
A small grouping of trees rising from the sand at the Indiana Dunes State Park provides compelling subject matter for photographs in all seasons. Since they are situated adjacent to the park pavilion, these trees present a prominent feature noticed by most visitors. In fact, because the trees stand so close to the main building, I had been concerned they might be removed or damaged when recent construction of an additional structure with new bathrooms and places for changing clothes took place nearby. Fortunately, the view through the trees toward Lake Michigan remains unchanged. The accompanying handful of images exhibits moments I have captured of these trees in different seasons, and they serve as examples for a pair of patterns evident in my photography: (1) snapping shots of beach trees whose limbs have been twisted in interesting ways by sun and wind, and (2) returning to familiar settings in order to photograph a series of scenes from similar perspectives but at various times of year.
Beach Trees in Winter Light: January, 2018
Though a primary subject for my photography in all seasons, trees in winter months appear to exhibit more character. Their bent or leaning trunks and the network of bare branches exist as natural sculpture shaped by sun and wind, plus each tree’s limbs seem to reach toward the sky as if in an expressive gesture. Those smaller trees growing along the beach or among the sand dunes especially present themselves as isolated survivors yet in danger or about to surrender to the elements when seen bathed in bright and angled winter light against a backdrop that sometimes includes shelf ice at the edge of Lake Michigan.