NEW HOPE, PA.- Claus Mroczynski was fascinated with the indigenous peoples of North America, especially the ancient inhabitants of the American Southwest. A New Hope, Pennsylvania resident for the last years of his life, this German-born photographer spent more than two decades visiting the rugged deserts, caves, mesas and mountains of the area, producing an evocative portrait of sacred places past and present. Claus Mroczynski: Sacred Places of the Southwest, the final exhibition at the James A. Michener Art Museum's New Hope satellite in Union Square, includes 49 black and white photographs of Native American ruins and Southwest landscapes. Organized by the Museum, the exhibition is on view in the Della Penna Gallery through February 1, 2009.
"Claus was a true adventurer and his photographs of ancient ruins reveal not only the mystery and beauty of each site, but also express his passion for the places and people of the Southwest," explains Kristy Krivitsky, the Museum's Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. "According to Pauline Domanski, the artist's wife, Claus always wanted to show his work in New Hope, so it's a particular honor for us to host an exhibition of this fine, local photographer."
Born in 1941 in Essen, Germany, Mroczynski received his initial art training at the Fachhochschule for Design in Dortmund. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, he used his sister's home in New York as a base for myriad travels in the United States, eventually studying with renowned photographers Ansel Adams, Wynne Bullock and Paul Caponigro at the Ansel Adams Workshops in Yosemite National Park, California. Positive receptions of his work from photographer Imogen Cunningham in San Francisco and photographer Eliot Porter in Santa Fe further encouraged the artist. Mroczynski settled in New York in 1974 and quickly began exhibiting his work and pursuing commercial photography clients.
The Sacred Places project began in the mid-1980s. One of the toughest challenges was gaining access to the sites, many of which are kept secret by Native Americans fearful of vandalism and theft. However, Mroczynski's sensitivity and respect for these places earned him access to many hidden sites that few have visited. Working in the field with a lightweight, medium-format camera, he frequently traveled to remote sacred grounds in such varied locations as the Grand Gulch Primitive Area in Utah, Canyon De Chelly National Monument in Arizona, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, Poncho House in the Colorado Plateau and Monarch Cave in Utah, among many others. Reaching the destination often required multi-day hikes which revealed, according to former magazine editor and colleague Richard W. Porter, "in a small way what those lands' original inhabitants endured, preparing the photographer for the task ahead."
Mroczynski's photographs are in such prestigious collections as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France and the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado. Mroczynski and his wife Pauline moved to an 18th-century stone house in New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1989. He continued to make frequent trips to the Southwest until his death in 2006.
An accompanying publication entitled Sacred Places of the Southwest is available for $70.00 in the Museum Shop ($63.00 for Museum members). Published in 2006, this hardcover consists of 164 pages with 157 black and white images, text by Fred Blackburn and a biography by Richard W. Porter.
In conjunction with Claus Mroczynski: Sacred Places of the Southwest, the Museum hosts a Special Exhibition Gallery Talk by Brian Peterson, Senior Curator and Kristy Krivitsky, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art on Friday, October 17 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Museum's New Hope location. The fee is $12.00 ($8.00 for members) and includes Museum admission. Advance registration is required by calling (215) 340-9800.
Annual support for the Michener Art Museum is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Bucks County Commissioners and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.