Florida pho­tog­ra­pher ex­plores sur­re­al­ist artist Dali’s roots

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ta­mara Lush

ST. PETERS­BURG, Fla. — Pho­tog­ra­pher Clyde Butcher is known for his sweep­ing, evoca­tive black-and-white pho­tos of Florida’s Ever­glades. But when he first ar­rived in the Sun­shine State al­most 40 years ago, he looked around and couldn’t find any­thing to pho­to­graph.

“Flat. No moun­tains. No wa­ter­falls. Bor­ing. I didn’t do any­thing for al­most the first two years,” he said.

Butcher, who had pre­vi­ously lived in Cal­i­for­nia and pho­tographed land­scapes there, wasn’t im­pressed by Florida as a cre­ative sub­ject. But in 1982, he made a trip to St. Peters­burg and vis­ited the Sal­vador Dali mu­seum, where a col­lec­tion of the Span­ish artist’s work was on dis­play.

“He in­spired me,” Butcher said with a grin, adding that Dali’s work led him to do some “cre­ative, outer-space type stuff.”

Not long af­ter that, Butcher picked up his cam­era and be­gan shoot­ing pho­tos of Florida’s cy­press stands, of swamps and se­cluded beaches.

Butcher’s lat­est work is an homage to the sur­re­al­ist mas­ter. It brings Butcher’s ca­reer in Florida full cir­cle.

The Dali Mu­seum in St. Peters­burg com­mis­sioned Butcher to travel to Spain to cap­ture Cadaques, Portl­li­gat, Figueres and Cap de Creus — ar­eas where Dali spent his early years, and where he died. The re­sult is the exhibit “Clyde Butcher: Vi­sions of Dali’s Spain,” and it’s a stark, moody show of the rugged, rocky land­scapes of Spain’s Costa Brava.

In the show’s 41 pho­to­graphs, view­ers can see what in­spired Dali — no small feat given his fan­tas­ti­cal and of­ten out­ra­geous artis­tic imag­i­na­tion. Butcher’s pho­tos are al­most a start­ing point for Dali’s paint­ings across the hall in the mu­seum. You can see how cer­tain rocks perched on cliffs look like the skulls that Dali painted, for ex­am­ple, and how light and shad­ows in­flu­enced Dali’s vi­sions.

/ AP-Chris O’Meara

Clyde Butcher (left) and cu­ra­tor Peter Tush en­ter a gallery dur­ing the open­ing of the “Clyde Butcher, Vi­sions of Dali’s Spain” exhibit at the Dali Mu­seum in St. Peters­burg, Fla.

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