The Boston Athenæum
presents “Vanderwarker’s Pantheon: Minds and Matter in Boston,” an exhibition of photographs by the distinguished Boston artist Peter Vanderwarker. The exhibition opens Feb. 11 and runs through May 2, 2009, in The Boston Athenæum’s Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery.
Although Peter Vanderwarker’s assignments and teaching take him around the world, the center of his interest has always been Boston. His work appears regularly in Architectural Record, Architectural Digest, Design New England, Dwell, and other magazines, and his approach is formed by training in both photography and architecture. Readers of the Boston Sunday Globe know Vanderwarker’s work through the “Cityscapes” series co-authored with architecture critic Robert Campbell.
“Peter Vanderwarker is passionately immersed in Boston,” says Sally Pierce, the Boston Athenæum’s curator of prints and photographs and curator of the exhibition. “He has spent a lifetime looking at, photographing, thinking and writing about Boston’s buildings and civic spaces. He has come to know many of the people who contribute to the city to make it more habitable, participatory, and just. This exhibition expresses Vanderwarker’s vision of the best of Boston, his Pantheon of people and places that make the city great.”
The photographs of Vanderwarker’s “heroes” were all created in 2008 expressly for this exhibition. People were photographed in settings representative of their particular spheres of engagement. The views, dating from 1882 to the present, define the city as a continuum of history, innovation, and public participation. All of the photographs are amplified by personal statements – from the portrait subjects describing the importance of what they do or from the photographer describing his response to the scene.
According to Vanderwarker, “I have produced a series of portraits of people I admire because they have reinvented the world in creative and productive ways. These people have broken the mold, or made extraordinary contributions, or in some way helped define Boston culturally. Boston excels as a place where all the arts count, indeed where physicians, writers, athletes, and teachers all regard what they do as an art.”
Vanderwarker’s interest in the evolution of the city of Boston led to several books: Boston, Then and Now: 59 Sites Photographed in the Past and Present (1982), and Cityscapes of Boston, with Robert Campbell (1992). In 1989 Vanderwarker was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to make a photographic document of Boston’s Central Artery Project, which resulted in The Big Dig: Reshaping an American City (2001). His work is in the collections of the Boston Athenaeum, the MIT Museum, and the Boston University Art Gallery, and in private and corporate collections.
Vanderwarker earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1971, and received an Institute Honors award from the American Institute of Architects in 1992. From 1996-1997 he was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and he received the Commonwealth Award from the Boston Society of Architects in 1999. Like his portrait subjects, Vanderwarker is actively engaged with the ongoing life of the city. In addition to pursuing his professional career, he teaches visual arts at the Codman Academy Charter Public School and serves on the boards of the Bostonian Society and the Boston Natural Areas Network.