Abigail & Michael Mouw (Artists-in-Residence, 2002)

An artist's work shows an overlay of a human on top of a rock
"Overlay of Human Over Rock", 23” x 19” photograph, 2002

NPS/Abigail and Michael Mouw

Isle Royale Reflection

"In August 2002, during the time of our Isle Royale residency, we were a young family of three—Abigail, Michael and our daughter Mathilde, age 12. We brought two Klepper folding kayaks—a single and a double—with our 4x5 inch Deardorff view camera and other photo equipment, along with everything else we would need for the two week stay on the island. We were ready! This was not only a natural place to make our photographic art, but a getaway to learn, to meditate and to rejuvenate.

The peaceful cabin surrounded by the powerful waters of Lake Superior was a haven for our daily photography, meals to recharge, and a home base for exploring the island through hikes on the trails and paddles in the crystal clear waters. We took great pleasure in filtering water from the lake to drink and regularly listening to our radio to understand Superior’s very unpredictable weather.

We kayaked every day in the fog, sunlight or drizzle. We hiked and took photographs of the varied details of the landscape and ourselves in it. At one point we were setting up the view camera on its tripod on top of a slick rock face perched above the dark tumultuous lake waters. As the light rain was coming down, the camera on its tripod tipped, fell over, and slid down the rock towards Lake Superior. It came to a stop just before heading over the edge into the water and thankfully incurred just a little damage. We were able to repair the camera in the cabin to continue our photographic documentation of the unique beauty across Isle Royale.

One night Michael was awakened around 3:00 am in the morning by the pull of the northern lights. He went outside to find they had filled the sky with wisps of colored light in every direction. Of course, he woke Abigail and Mathilde so that we all could witness the shape of an eagle overhead in nature’s vividly pulsating northern lights show. It was a truly spiritual experience.

Our time on Isle Royale felt primitive and wonderful. All three of us experienced great joy in the remote, quiet and formidable landscape. We are truly grateful for the Artist-in-Residence program in the National Parks."

- Abigail and Michael Mouw, March 2019

Abigail and Michael Mouw Portrait
Michael and Abigail

About the Artists

Abigail and Michael Mouw were Artists-in-Residence at Isle Royale National Park from July 23rd to August 7th, 2002 and at the Everglades National Park in 2003, where they documented the natural beauty of the parks with a large format view camera. Their photographic artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the Twin Cities with works included in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The Mouws photographs are featured in a permanent public art installation at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport light rail station via ten light boxes that showcase the intersection of humans and nature, across time and place in Minnesota.

Each print is made up of a complex collage of projected and real objects. Inside the photographic enlarger, the Mouws sandwich together color transparencies and other translucent and semi-translucent objects — the petals of flowers, a fan, butterfly wings, and so on. All of these elements are brilliantly illuminated in the final print. Additionally, the Mouws place opaque objects — utensils or portions of their own bodies — upon the light-sensitive paper as they project light through the enlarger and onto the photographic paper. By blocking the light with opaque objects, they create shadowed silhouettes that further enrich the layers of the image. Each individual print, then, is a record of a performance that took place between collaborators working quickly in the darkroom’s dimness.


Last updated: December 26, 2019

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