Silent elegy

Viewpoint Photographic Art Center

“Searching for Wabi Sabi #34” by Bruce MacDougall, photograph.

“Searching for Wabi Sabi #34” by Bruce MacDougall, photograph.

Where: Viewpoint Photographic Art Center, 2015 J Street, Suite 101; (916) 441-2341;
Artist’s reception: Friday, October 12; 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Second Saturday reception: October 13, 5:30-9 p.m. Through November 3.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, noon-6 p.m.

The worst thing that could happen to a parent happened to Bruce MacDougall. In 2010, his 31-year-old daughter was murdered.

“My handling of that horrible event is documented photographically in the portfolio ‘Searching for Wabi Sabi; Discovering Molly,’” the Massachusetts-based artist wrote on his website. “I believe this is the theme that will be preeminent in my photographic endeavors.”

He described wabi-sabi as “a Japanese aesthetic that values objects and images reflecting the transience and imperfection that characterize our existence; it eschews the idealized, the formal, the ornate. … Nothing is permanent; nothing is finished; nothing is perfect.”

The starkness of his minimal, black-and-white nature—with the rarest blushes of color, hinting hope—photographs in this series achieve that delicate elegance of Japanese aesthetics, and in the often solemn negative space or soft undulations of the water or sand, there is necessary room for meditation. This, plus the absence of color and the stillness of the images, suggests a kind of introspection and numbness, too, which, considering MacDougall’s circumstances, is fitting.

These are the images of a man who, after a shattering heartbreak, is trying to find the beauty again in life. And he has turned to nature, and he has captured it beautifully in this silent elegy.

“I look at the world now with much different eyes and see many different things. In my search for wabi sabi I am discovering my lost daughter.”