Annie Leibovitz: Chutzpah and searching

Thursday June 21, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- Known best for her carefully framed, well-lit magazine portraits, photographer Annie Leibovitz is taking a different journey with her work this time around and is sharing her personal explorations with the public.

Leibovitz will discuss and show her work from her latest book and traveling exhibit "Pilgrimage," at "Chesterwood Presents An Evening with Annie Leibovitz" at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Monday at 7 p.m.

"This talk will be specifically about her pilgrimage," said Donna Hassler, director at Chesterwood, historic site of sculptor Daniel Chester French. "You will learn more about the artist as a person and her thoughts about the places she visited."

From Niagara Falls, Walden Pond, Old Faithful, and the Yosemite Valley to the homes of Thomas Jefferson, Emily Dick inson, and Georgia O'Keeffe, Leibovitz's photographs in "Pilgrimage" were taken "simply because Leibo vitz was moved by the subject," according to a press release from the photographer's studio. The work, made up of approximately 70 photographs taken be tween April 2009 and May 2011, will be on view at the Concord Museum in Concord, Mass. from Thursday, June 28, through Sept. 23. Previously, the collection was on exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

According to information about the exhibit on the museum's website: "The pictures, although there are no people in them, are in a certain sense portraits of subjects that have shaped Leibovitz's distinctly American view of her cultural inheritance."

"[The public] will have better insight to the artist herself, hearing her talk about her work," said Hassler, mulling over the upcoming event, which is also a benefit for Chester wood. "They will also have opportunity to see some of her newest work, which she will describe. She will be giving powerpoint presentation that will show the photographs on large scale."

The staff at Chesterwood first became introduced to Leib ovitz's project when she visited the country home of Chester French in Stockbridge several years ago while working on the book. Some photographs of the famous American sculptor's studio found their way into Leibovitz's book and her understanding.

"She's very personable and was very excited to be at Chesterwood," said Hassler. "It was a discovery for her, having been here for the first time. She's very wonderful to work with. She shared with the staff at Chesterwood" some of her thoughts and struggles. "It was very exciting."

The photographs taken at Chesterwood include a detailed image of a small model of Abraham Lincoln sitting at the base of a larger 6-foot plaster model that Chester French used when creating the Lincoln Memorial. The studio also appears -- and the most interesting image, according to Hassler, is of a Chester French's hands, which he made out of plaster in reference to the work he was doing on the Lincoln Memorial.

For organizers at the Ma haiwe, hosting this talk is exciting on multiple levels, said Karin Watkins, general manager at the performing arts center in Great Barrington.

"One of our goals at the Mahaiwe, in addition to the variety of events we present on our own schedule, is to make the theater available for other local organizations to put on public events outside the realm of what they normally do," she said. "This is yet another great partnership, and one which we feel benefits both organizations. Chesterwood is a true treasure in our area, and by expanding their programming into downtown Great Barrington with this event, we hope they can in crease awareness of what they have to offer year-round at their own beautiful historic site. And we get to have Annie Leibovitz on our stage."

"We hope that people who would like to meet the artist will join us," said Hassler. "It is a special event."

If you go ...

What: Chesterwood Presents An Evening with Annie Leibovitz Artist's Talk: Pilgrimage

When: Monday June at 7 p.m.

Where: The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center Theater, 14 Castle St. Great Barrington

Admission: $27,

$17 for students,
$75 for post-lecture
reception with Leibovitz.

Information: Call the Mahaiwe box office at (413) 528-0100 or visit


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