Photographer Bruce Myren grew up along the Mill River in Amherst, down the river from poet Robert Francis (1901-87). Francis, who crafted lyrical and canny verses, had built his own small house in 1940, and lived a frugal life there until he died. He called the house Fort Juniper. Today, the Robert Francis Trust maintains the house for poets-in-residence.
Sometimes, on a walk in the woods, Myren would encounter the poet, who tipped his cap. His “Fort Juniper” photographs at Gallery Kayafas explore the landscape that enriched two artists’ imaginations.
The color photographs, made with an 8-inch-by-10-inch view camera, vibrate with intense detail.
“Solitaire (View 2)” depicts the poet’s cottage in the snow as dusk approaches. Welcoming lights shine in the window and at the front door. The photo reprises Francis’s image in the poem “Solitaire,” which ends: “… Having come home so many times/ To darkness winter afternoons and nights,/ For once he was coming home to windowlight.”
Artists construct safe spaces for us to conjure meaning and memory and to touch down into the tender parts of ourselves. Myren, who has another series tracing the 40th latitudinal parallel across the country, specializes in the meaning we project onto landscape.
“Fort Juniper” is a more intimate project. These photographs depict Francis as a private man with a sumptuous internal life, reflected in his house and surrounding land full of inviting pathways, enrobed in the changing seasons. Four photographs, “A Bend in the River,” look down on the same scene winter through fall, hushed and bare in winter, a riot of greenery in summer.
In two photographs titled “Lord Wilbur’s Oak,” we see a noble tree, first bathed in rosy sunlight towering over snow, and then glimpsed through the cottage window — a tangle of branches, a gleam of sun. The house becomes the poet’s mind, and the window his eye.
The landscapes of childhood imprint themselves on the psyche, ripe with possibility. It’s the poet’s and the artist’s job to send us tumbling back into that everyday marvel. With Francis as his muse, Myren rediscovers the sacred in a modest home in an ordinary wood.
BRUCE MYREN: FORT JUNIPER
At Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave., through Nov. 28. 617-482-0411, www.gallerykayafas.com