Raising awareness through aerial art
Rivers, bluffs, valleys and even fields are a common backdrop for local artists and the everyday passersby alike. Daily encounters with such landscapes are mandatory for our area, some perhaps taking advantage of the ever-changing natural beauty.
Red Wing resident Mark Abrahamson has found an invigorating exploration of the land from an authentic angle. For the last 25 years the photographer has captured aerial images exploring the nation's urban and rural environments.
What may look like a view of an endless field filled with monotonous crops is, from the sky, what Abrahamson simply sees as a work of art.
His inflight focus is on climate change and water. What Abrahamson has found from his bird's eye perspective is a raw view of humans' impact on the environment.
The result of his endeavors has led to the production of two large bodies of work "The Watershed Investigations Series" and his lecture "Global Warming: An American Perspective."
Born and raised in Washington, Abrahamson bonded with nature -- on a terrestrial level -- at a young age. He fished for salmon, skied and hiked in the mountains and hunted for pheasant, duck and geese.
"I was involved in the boy scouts and have always put a really high value on taking care of the natural world and landscape," he said.
Abrahamson found people in Minnesota share the same bond. "There is strong world of care here."
After moving to Red Wing just three months ago, he continues to work on his aerial projects, honing his focus on the Mississippi River region. "It will take me the rest of my life," he adds of covering the massive waterway.
"The Mississippi is such an interesting river, it is so big and complicated," he said. "It's a major artery for transportation in the Midwest."
Photography has not been a lifelong career for Abrahamson -- although an interest was sparked 40 years ago, when he acquired his first camera while in the military.
Rather, he decided on a different profession -- dentistry. Decades of work without a vacation and a growing interest in the environment led to his retirement six years ago. "I was just burned out," Abrahamson added.
Dabbling in politics in his earlier days in at his home in Washington, he led a citizen group with focus on land use, water quality, fisheries issues and watershed restoration for almost ten years. But after years of endless meetings, Abrahamson took to the sky for his environmental advocacy -- and has been airborne ever since.
"I thought it would be better to quit politics and go up in an airplane to photograph a water restoration project," he said, "When you are up in a plane you can see so much more."
Abrahamson then developed a portfolio of aerial images and over time localized his concept to specific areas of the country including Chicago, Hudson, Montana, the Everglades, Alaska, the Outerbanks and San Antonio, among others. "People are really interested in where they live," he explained.
His work has captured the attention of several art galleries throughout the nation, giving him solo exhibitions to showcase his photographs. Abrahamson has received numerous grants and awards for his aerial imagery and continues to present lectures incorporating his work to illustrate climate change.
Now it's the Mississippi's turn.
When not chartering small planes to capture images from above, he works on mixed media storyboards usually based on environmental issues.
In the midst of moving more than 3,000 pieces of artwork from the west coast, Abrahamson has recently acquired a studio at the Anderson Center where he plans to showcase and educate at this year's Summer Celebration of the Arts, held Saturday July 7.
For more information about Abrahamson's work visit www.markabrahamson.com.