Maine's Woods: Observations by Bert Lincoln Call & Henry David Thoreau back to intro page

About the Exhibition

The current exhibition, Maine's North Woods: Observations by Bert Lincoln Call & Henry David Thoreau, presented by the Dexter Historical Society, has been curated by Frank Spizuoco, who has nurtured and promoted the work of Bert Lincoln Call for over forty years. This exhibition is the first time that the images are being presented fully restored.

See Exhibition Schedule below ↓

Call in later life in his greenhouse B.L.Call in his greenhouse

I first met Bert when he was 97 years old. Although there were 77 years separating us, we soon struck up a friendship that lasted until his death. We would drive around town, and he would fill me in on stories as we passed a home or a landmark around Dexter. He was a good storyteller. He also related to the present and was aware of current events. At one point, he gave me a box of ancient, dusty negatives and said, “Here, go start your Historical Society.” The present photo show is from those negatives.

There was an aura of serenity about Bert. He had a humble, quiet demeanor, with a strong and stable inner strength. Bert was not a religious person, but you sensed a spirituality about him as you got to know him. He had led a simple life with a philosophy I admired. Nature was the vehicle he used to achieve this.

As a teenager, I had read Henry David Thoreau's The Maine Woods and Walden and was markedly influenced by his prose. I then made a journey to Walden Pond in Concord where Thoreau had lived, and climbed Mount Katahdin as he did in 1846. I was searching for some purpose in my young life and Thoreau's words affected me.

Reading about Thoreau more recently, I noticed similarities between him and Bert. In 1988, noted Maine historian, James Vickery, called Bert “the Maine Thoreau, more poetic than prosaic”.

We are presenting a show of different visions of the same subject. Yet, upon investigation, we find many similarities between Henry David Thoreau and Bert Lincoln Call. Both worked at an art that had a degree of commercial value, each wanting to leave a legacy, but still make getting a living poetic. Both had spiritual beliefs, a strong code of ethics and lived in moderation with a minimum of status and wealth. Both were alert to their surroundings, great observers and recorders of nature. Both were attracted to the tonic effect of wilderness. They learned to respect nature in its solitude and menacing reality as a wild savage country.

What Thoreau revealed in prose, Call documented in photography.

—Frank Spizuoco, Curator, Dexter Historical Society

The total Call photo collection covers Central Maine and the Northern Maine forest. A sampling of his work was first shown at the University of Maine's Fogler Library in 1990. An expanded version was exhibited in New York in 1991, sponsored by the University of Maine Alumni Association. The exhibit was again shown in 2003 at the Bangor Public Library, and in 2005 in Dexter, Greenville, Dover-Foxcroft, Guilford, Milo and Bangor. In 2007, a new show combining Bert Call's photographs with quotes from Thoreau's The Maine Woods was created for the annual Thoreau Gathering, sponsored by the Thoreau Society, in Concord, Massachusetts. Recently, Bert Call's photographs were used by Dave Mallett to illustrate his latest CD, The Fable True, The Words of Henry David Thoreau's “The Maine Woods”.

This traveling exhibition of Bert Lincoln Call's work will be shown in fine art venues and educational institutions in Maine and other states during the next five years.

Exhibition Schedule

March 7, 2009 Dexter Historical Society Pre-Exhibition Showing
May 16—June 20, 2009 Abbott Museum, Dexter Historical Society
June 27—September 5, 2009 Moosehead Historical Society, Greenville
July 4—November 14, 2009 North Light Gallery, Millinocket
September 12—October 24, 2009 Penobscot Indian Nation, Community Center, Indian Island, Old Town
November 5—December 12, 2009 Area Gallery, Woodbury Campus Center, USM, Portland
December 15, 2009—September 1, 2010 Glickman Library, University of Southern Maine, Portland
January 4—29, 2010 Bangor Public Library, Bangor
May 6—July 5, 2010 Patten Lumberman's Museum, Patten
July 7—September 10, 2010 Monson Community Center, Monson
September 17—October 11, 2010 University of Maine at Presque Isle, Presque Isle
November 8—December 17, 2010 University of Maine at Machias, Machias
December 30, 2010—February 15, 2011 Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union, Dexter
September 5—October 20, 2012 Lewiston-Auburn College, USM, Auburn