t’s probably not a coincidence that Vaughn Sills’ exhibition opened the day after the area’s first frost warning, the warm tones of “This Precious Life” bringing needed heat to those in attendance at its opening reception in the Art Center Gallery at Anna Maria College in the Central Massachusetts town of Paxton.
The exhibition, billed as “a select retrospective view of the last 40 years of a photographic life,” is broken into four portions: “Knowing Our Distance” (images exploring the past and present in Sills’ life), “Beyond Words” (utilizing objects and plants found outside her grandparents’ Prince Edward Island cottage), “True Poems Flee” (photographs taken of structures and atmospheric events in P.E.I.) and “Inside Outside” (still-life floral settings infront of photographs from P.E.I., an act she calls, “the juxtaposition of the human-inhabited environment with the wild, untamed natural world.”).
After a successful season of gardening, I found myself drawn to the latter collection first and the shapes of its subjects; initially, I thought the backdrop was natural. I soon found out that I was wrong.
When she began her “Inside Outside” series in 2020, Sills started using flowers from the florist in the winter, then, “during Covid, I started pulling them from the yard.” For her, it was a completely unexpected inspiration. “I thought I would make a picture of a beautiful little bouquet of red anemone that I had in my studio, but, by themselves, when I looked through the viewfinder, that wasn’t enough. I looked around my studio — what would make the flowers more than just flowers? It was simply unexpected intuition — use a photograph from ‘True Poems Flee.’”