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Prolific artist has more in store
By J. C. Lockwood/ newburyport@cnc.com
Friday, March 3, 2006

It was a busy weekend for Jon-William Brown: First, the Newburyport artist, whose latest exhibit, "Newburyport: An American Perspective," is on display at Carry Out Cafe, hosted a multimedia program that focuses on the Clipper City's contributions to American political and social history, and to its future.
    The program was illustrated with digitally restored photographs from the collection of Newburyport from Theodore Kyrios, an American history teacher who Brown met last summer.
    During the program, which also included a talk on sustainable community development, Brown introduced five new giclee prints. He then took these new digital images, originally taken during the federally financed reconstruction of a distressed, downtown Newburyport in the late 1970s, to the Carry Out and incorporated them into his exhibit, which captures the vibrant downtown scene of today.
    During a reception, he planned to talk about the history, techniques and applications of the Newburyport series, which are significantly broader than what it may initially appear. Williams, who also teaches alternative holistic treatments, believes the city - and the country - is on the precipice of major change.
    It didn't quite work out that way. A weekend storm forced Brown to cancel the reception. The work doesn't end there, anyhow. Williams, who moved to Newburyport four years ago after travelling the country on a spiritual quest for over three years - and then spending a year and a half writing a book about the experience - is preparing to launch another exhibit, one that dovetails with the current show, as soon as the Carry Out show closes in three weeks. Eventually, the work will be combined with the personal stories and perspectives of Newburyport residents and publish in a pictorial book with the same name as the exhibit: "Newburyport: An American Perspective."
    It's an ongoing, multi-dimensional project that deals with history, social issues and spirituality. "It's like a memoir of small-town America," he says. "It's a reflection of America itself."
    Brown has a bird's eye view of Market Square from his downtown loft and draws from the "remarkable energy" from the location. The idea is to depict the city during the transformational period of the 70s and during the current era, another period of potentially great change. The work represents "baby steps. a photographic evolution" of a larger portrait, he says, illuminating the city as a social, political and historical force, but also as a metaphor for progressive, socially conscious blueprint- a reexamination of the current state of the American dream.
    Brown was born in Chelsea and attended Revere High School in 1977. He spent 10 years as a photo-technician and participated in the first major all-digital photo exhibition in Boston in 1996. He designed furniture from 1991 to 1995.
    "By then I had had just about enough of Boston," he says., and began his trek around the country. Since landing in Newburyport, he has put on a number of shows.
    The newer work in the current exhibit actually points to an older time: The 70s. The photos show the first phase of the restoration of Market Square. Digital images taken from the collection of Theodore Kyrios were initially color photos. They were then changed into a sepia-tone format, then hand colored, giving it a quality of new-meets-old. One, for example, is an image of Market Square from the bottom of Inn Street and looking to the northeast. The buildings are the same, but their function is different. He added traces of color: Gold in the griffin, blue to the plant hanging on the lamppost. Photographs like these, which speak economic hard times, are contrasted to images of the new, improved Newburyport that appear, at first blush, documentary: Images of contemporary storefronts.
    The format is horizontal and were created using a process called digital stitching, in which multiple images of the storefronts, taken 10 feet at a time, are blended together, eliminating the kind of distortion that comes from wide angel lenses. All are digitally manipulated and presented as giclee prints.
    Brown is aware that some people don't "get" this kind of work.
    "People have a misconception about digital art," he says. "They think you press a couple of buttons and out comes the art. It doesn't work like that."
    He spends hours experimenting with the form, the elements and the colors. "Purists don't understand. The computer is just another tool. It's like a painter's brush."
    



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