Xiomaro's artistry captures the magic of New Jersey National ParkJul 18, 2022 12:54PM ● By Jillian Risberg
With their upcoming 90th anniversary on the horizon, Morristown National Historical Park (MNHP) has enlisted nationally recognized New York artist Xiomaro to create fine art photographs of the park’s key features: Ford Mansion (Washington’s headquarters), Jockey Hollow (troops were encamped), and the Cross Estate (semi-abandoned mansion).
Join the park’s artist-in-residence for a kickoff meet and greet at Jockey Hollow Visitor Center.
When it comes to his pictures, Xiomaro says he challenges people to view them more critically (from a design/color/composition point of view) and not accept as they were taught in a superficial way growing up, without the context of history.
The artist took his Cross Estate Mansion chandelier photograph as he lay on the floor looking up.
“The photo gives a different perception,” he says at first sight, it might resemble a metallic snowflake. "Provoke folks to look at ordinary things we see everyday differently.”
One may care less about the history and just want to enjoy the art.
“It also may provoke or inspire others to delve deeper into the history,” says the artist.
He says much can come from this and photography is in its golden age now.
According to Xiomaro, there’s a tradition in the park service of ‘interpretation.’
When you take a park tour, they share the history behind what you see to give context because history is composed of many layers and ways to convey.
“In the past many of the exhibits I’ve done with/or for the park service have had this interpretive element — where each picture would be accompanied by text I wrote to tell the story,” but the artist says for this exhibit, they decided to go the more traditional museum/gallery approach with photo captions as identifiers.
This leaves it up to the viewer to interpret what those photographs mean to them, much the way one might if they listened to lyrics of a song or read a poem.
If one wants further information about the image, in terms of historical representation — feel free to speak with the visitor’s center or a ranger.
“I want them to appreciate the images for what they are,” Xiomaro says to have unfettered access where the public cannot go (like the Cross Estate Mansion) allows him to spend days there soaking it in and taking pictures.
“For me it’s not just photography, but the experience of coming as a visitor behind the scenes — helps inform the work I do.”
The skillful examination of something in his own house, neighborhood or that no-one else sees may change the artist’s perspective, which drives a lot of his photography.
“Care less what the object is and more about the colors, texture or how it’s juxtaposed,” says Xiomaro, who processes all pictures in his (dry darkroom) studio, from inception to frames.
Nikon D810 digital is his current camera of choice and he uses an additional camera for street photo shoots in Times Square (NYC) but says there are other ways.
“With this exhibit I’m taking a dozen people (on photo walk) along Wick Farm/trail and showing them even with a smartphone they can get intriguing, artistic photographs,” the artist says he knows his own photos resonate when someone points out a detail he didn’t notice.
"Or something in the composition or subliminal,” says Xiomaro. “I learn about my own photography and aesthetic through other people's comments because I’m too close to it — and it’s very satisfying that the pictures connect with people in a deep, emotional way.”
He first fell in love with photography as a teenager, at the time a musician with a basement band.
Back in the 70s it was more complicated and cameras were expensive. It wasn’t accessible for a teenager with not much money.
With digital photography on the scene, it was more attainable for someone to pursue as an art form.
After he beat cancer in the early 2000s, Xiomaro reassessed his life and felt the need to move in a new artistic direction.
To overcome the ensuing depression, the artist visited national parks, where he wandered and took casual photos with a simple digital camera.
“I eventually got rid of the band, then as a solo singer/songwriter I performed at coffeehouses and universities in the Northeast,” he displayed the photos at those concerts and said in some cases those photos attracted more attention than the CDs he sold. “It got me thinking maybe photography is something I should pursue more seriously.”
In 2009 he was accepted to Weir Farm’s artist-in-residence program, where he lived for a month and created a photographic collection; the park itself later wanted to use some of those photographs.
It triggered the publication of the book (Weir Farm National Historic Site) and the attention of Sen. Joe Lieberman, who sponsored the bill to create that park and wrote the book’s forward.
“Then other parks in the Northeast started connecting with me and asked me to photograph theirs in a similar fashion (more artistic), Morristown was one of them,” says Xiomaro. “I’ve been working with them for five years now.”
The renowned artist has at least two more New Jersey (next year) exhibits in the works but can’t announce what they are yet.
A curious person by nature, he continues taking pictures because he likes to push himself.
“It’s a little risky ‘cause sometimes when I push (that’s) weird for people to get but sometimes they do, you have to try,” Xiomaro says on occasion he buys a different lens or tries another technique to switch things up. “What is nice about working with various parks — with each project a new challenge hopefully injects freshness to the photos I’m taking.”
To learn more, visit www.xiomaro.com.