Liberal Arts Blog — The Magical World of Abelardo Morell: Photographer, Painter, Experimentalist

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Today’s Topic: The Magical World of Abelardo Morell: Photographer, Painter, Experimentalist

It’s not every day that I get blown away by the work of a living artist. Most of my posts focus on people long dead. Today is different and I have to thank an old friend, Terry Fisher for introducing me yesterday to the phenomenal photographer and painter Abelardo Morell. Born in Cuba he emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 14 years old in 1962. If you are intrigued by the images below, make sure to click on the following link to a four minute video in which Abelardo explains the magic of the camera oscura. He reminds me of the actor Vincent Gardenia who played “Cosmo” in the film “Moonstruck.” if you are further intrigued, well click on the second link for a 50 minute talk by Morell. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

Abelardo Morell and the magic of the camera obscura

Abelardo Morell, Artist Talk 10.12.16


1. Don’t miss his camera oscura photographs of Venice, Paris, and New York City in the link just below.

2.“I made my first picture using camera obscura techniques in my darkened living room in 1991. In setting up a room to make this kind of photograph, I cover all windows with black plastic in order to achieve total darkness. Then, I cut a small hole in the material I use to cover the windows. This opening allows an inverted image of the view outside to flood onto the back walls of the room. Typically then I focused my large-format camera on the incoming image on the wall then make a camera exposure on film. In the beginning, exposures took from five to ten hours.”

3. “Over time, this project has taken me from my living room to all sorts of interiors around the world. One of the satisfactions I get from making this imagery comes from my seeing the weird and yet natural marriage of the inside and outside. Several years ago, in order to push the visual potential of this process, I began to use color film and positioned a lens over the hole in the window plastic in order to add to the overall sharpness and brightness of the incoming image. Now, I often use a prism to make the projection come in right side up.”

NB: I have also been able to shorten my exposures considerably thanks to digital technology, which in turn makes it possible to capture more momentary light. I love the increased sense of reality that the outdoor has in these new works .The marriage of the outside and the inside is now made up of more equal partners.”

Camera Obscura — Abelardo Morell

“THE SHOES OF OUR ICONS ARE STILL FULL OF LIFE” (Seen first link below for a New York Times Magazine article with many more photographs of fascinating shoes of intriguing personalities)

1. “To paint his studio in Northampton, Mass, Eric Carle — who illustrated and wrote dozens of picture books, most famously, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” — outfitted himself in a white smock in the style of a doctor’s lab coat and a dedicated pair of black lace-up Italian dress shoes that he would wear nowhere else.” (Amy Wang, NYT, first link below)

2. “It was his transition from his regular personal life into the creative world.” says Motoko Inoue, the former creative director of Carle’s studio, who remembers his persistent yearning to bring more color and saturation into the world.” (ditto)

3. “But for all the taut routine, Carle “embraced mess” in his painting life, often using a broom as a giant paintbrush to make massive murals on the floors of his studio and splashing himself with vivid hues in the process, says Rachel Hass of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.”

NB: “The shoes themselves were so sophisticated and elegant, so splattered with paint, they capture this combination of the free child and the sophisticated man — the essence of Carle.”


1. “I have been a photographer all my life and I predict that I will be one until the end — I like the way the world looks photographed! But I confess that I have always been more than a little jealous of painters. When I visit museums, my eyes often take me first to the painting galleries.”

2. “I marvel at the surfaces of paintings, which contain their own visual dramas, often independent of any narrative or formal aspect of the work. A difference between us photographers and painters are that photographers normally start with the world, while painters begin with a blank canvas and end up at times with astonishing creations — I still don’t understand how that happens! “

3. “I often have dreams where I am a painter, creating gorgeous abstract works rivaling De Kooning, O’Keeffe, Pollock, Mitchell and Richter — in my dreams!”

NB: “My “Paint Pictures” are my attempt to fill the gap between what I know (and adore) about photography and what I long for in my other artistic fantasies and ambitions. I paint all my pictures using brushes, sticks and sponges. I feel insecure about calling myself a painter or even a Sunday painter but I do know enough about moving paint around to arrive at something interesting — maybe even beautiful!”

Paint — Abelardo Morell

Abelardo Morell — Wikipedia

Two New York Times articles:

His Three Loves: Photography, Art History and Lisa (Published 2018)

His website

Abelardo Morell


Flowers for Lisa: Abelardo Morell’s Enduring Gift of Images

Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture Series: Abelardo Morell

How to Turn a Room into a Camera Obscura


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


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