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Barbara Bosworth

Sun Light Moon Shadow
Barbara Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography, Chair of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
February 15, 2024
Moon Setting into Fog Bank over Cape Cod Bay, Morning of the Total Lunar Eclipse
Moon Setting into Fog Bank over Cape Cod Bay, Morning of the Total Lunar Eclipse, 2007, printed 2023. Barbara Bosworth (American, b. 1953). Inkjet print; sheet: 142.2 x 177.8 cm (56 x 70 in.); frame: 152.4 x 188 cm (60 x 74 in.). Courtesy of the Artist © Barbara Bosworth

Day will become night in Cleveland on the afternoon of Monday, April 8. Imagine how terrifying this rupture in the fabric of everyday reality would be if you did not know that the sudden darkness was due to a total solar eclipse. As we go about our daily lives, our minds consumed by human affairs, rarely do we stop to ponder the immensity, power, and beauty of the celestial bodies. Barbara Bosworth: Sun Light Moon Shadow provides a chance to do just that.

Barbara Bosworth was born and raised in Novelty, Ohio, far enough from Cleveland to dim the city lights. She and her father would take nighttime walks and look up at the sky. Those ambles led to a lifetime passion for astronomy and to the creation, over the years, of several series of photographs that address light. Its source may be an eclipse, sunrise, or sunset, the luminescent glow of fireflies, or the beam of a flashlight.

Photography is based on light: a photograph is light recorded over time on a photosensitive surface, be it film, photosensitized paper, or a digital sensor. And astronomers rely on light—both the visible and invisible spectrums—to help them uncover the secrets of the universe. But beyond those practical applications, as we know from moments like an eclipse, light and darkness evoke elemental fears and joys and elicit deep emotional responses in humans. We endow astronomical phenomena with personal meaning.

 These bonds between humans and the natural world, which often go unnoticed, are elucidated in the exhibition through the juxtaposition of nine monumental images of the sky and heavenly bodies, all but one in color, with six intimately scaled black-and-white scenes of life and light on the earth. To capture the moon, the sun, and the stars, Bosworth uses an 8-x-10-inch view camera and color film, sometimes in conjunction with a telescope or an astronomical tracker. The large negative provides incredibly high resolution and detail, allowing the artist to produce prints that are 74 x 60 inches. 

crescent moon
The Crescent Moon, 3 Days off New, June 15, 2010 2010, printed 2023. Barbara Bosworth. Inkjet print; 177.8 x 142.2 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Barbara Bosworth

The black-and-white images are set on the earth and may include people or references to them. Included are two photographs of the artist’s father. In one, an orb of bright light next to him turns out to be a flashlight he is holding. In the other, images of a partial solar eclipse project onto his hands. A third image references him in its title: My Father’s Last Sunset was taken in 2002.

Whether dealing with a deep personal loss like the death of one’s father or just the aggravations of everyday life, a glance up into the sky—or a moment’s meditation on art that addresses the enormity and magnificence of the heavens—can offer respite and a change of perspective. Barbara Bosworth admires the 19th-century American astronomer and naturalist Maria Mitchell, whose advice about viewing the heavens is equally useful in considering our life here on earth: “Try to take in the vastness of the universe.”