William Van Beckum: Mountains Within Reach
William Van Beckum is an artist committed to the essence of photography, containing the spirit of adventure and escapism in an image that, in theory, outlives us all. Van Beckum makes room in his camping backpack for his camera and lenses, asserting its necessity with the willingness to lug the extra weight up a mountainside despite the convenience of the camera in an iPhone. The nucleus of an entrancing landscape photograph is the ability to meet the terrain with patience and in a slow, almost spiritual encounter to react to the elements. Van Beckum has traveled through arctic terrain, expansive deserts, and dense forests to compare the bestowed beauty with how social media reflects an increasingly self-centered attitude toward the nature. In a world inundated with digital imagery, his work is a contemplative consideration of our relationship with the environment and the impact of technology on our perception of nature.
While Van Beckum’s dedication to the natural world persists in his practice, his work has evolved to engage with the equally important spaces within the immediacy of his life. As a parent and photography teacher, the limitations of an overflowing daily schedule affect the chances of frequently withdrawing into the wilderness with uninhibited intentions of making artwork. He is the type of photographer who is almost always armed with a camera and finds a subject in the in-between spaces of morning commutes or the waning hours of the sun at home. Moments of humanity and adoration are depicted in family scenes, still-life concoctions, and backyard expeditions with equal exuberance to the landscapes found in his prior work. Through his moody lighting and evocative compositions, his work offers a blend of playfulness and introspection, creating photographs that are both intimate and timeless. His persistence in taking photographs highlights the passage of time of people and places, reflecting through his lens a truth about the inevitable reality of change and growth.
As the life of an artist develops into the wearing of multiple hats and identities, the act of taking photographs itself becomes an assertion of presence. Each image is deliberate, and Van Beckum continually reacts to his surroundings in search of a visual tension that activates the frame. Parents are riddled with exhaustion and guilt, and making artwork while caring for children forces artists to inevitably adapt their practice for the remainder of their lives. During the odd times of the day, ideas flutter, like peering out the window while rocking a baby to sleep, and retaining that idea for later is a feat in itself. Artists who are parents have notebooks, voice memos, or crude sketches stashed in the corners of their brains to attempt to hold onto those ideas for when time allows them to come to fruition. Van Beckum’s images speak to the vitality of photography as they follow the light and continue to document the essence of a scene. He will surely find new landscapes to traverse in the future as time allows. For now, his photographs from suburbia present another sharp perspective on the entanglement of humans, regarding both looking outward through a lens and reflecting on the attempt to hold time still.
William Van Beckum earned his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in 2017 and his BA from Emerson College in 2011. He has taught at Wellesley College, Emerson College, University of New Hampshire, the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and is currently an art teacher at Sharon High School.
Van Beckum has exhibited work extensively in venues such as the Museum of Fine Arts, AREA Gallery, The Cyclorama at Boston Center for the Arts, and Adelson Gallery. In 2019 he exhibited a Solo Show of vernacular inspired photography at Gallery 263 which was reviewed by Boston Hassle and Clarion Magazine. In 2020 he was featured in a Boston Globe article about artist social media practices in the early days of the pandemic. In 2016 served as a resident artist for the Appalachian and New England Scenic Trail Systems. In 2019 he built a mobile community darkroom in collaboration with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s 20th anniversary.
He has been recognized for achievements in photography by Medium Photo, and the Yousuf Karsh Prize in Photography. Van Beckum’s work is in numerous private collections as well as Google’s art collection.
Follow William Van Beckum on Instagram: @williamvanbeckum
Douglas Breault is an interdisciplinary artist who overlaps elements of photography, painting, sculpture, and video to merge spaces both real and imagined. His work has been collected, published, and exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art (South Korea), Space Place Gallery (Russia), the Bristol Art Museum, the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts, Amos Eno Gallery, and VSOP Projects. Breault has been an artist in residence at MassMoca and AS220 and was awarded the Montague Travel Grant to study in London and Paris in 2017. Douglas is a professor of art at Babson College and Bridgewater State University, and he has been a guest critic at MassArt, Wellesley College, Kansas City Art Institute, and the Slade College of Art, among others. Douglas is the Exhibitions Director at Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA. He received his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and a BA in Studio Art from Bridgewater State University, and he currently divides his time between Boston, MA, and Providence, RI.
Follow Douglas Breault on Instagram: @dug_bro
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