Honoring the Artist: Pamela Topham

Dan’s Papers cover artist Pamela Topham has always been a passionate person – about family, life and her art work. But recently she has experienced a unique kind of passion that has inspired her in new and different ways. Such motivation has come from a trip to the Czech Republic on behalf of the Milkwood International Artists’ Residence. One result was her discovery of a new creative tool, namely a “Photo Journal,” where photography has taken on a salient meaning and added to her well-known tapestry and drawing skills.

Topham’s photographs of her trip, particularly, are striking in their sense of place, capturing both the past and the fantasy-like fairytale ambience of Prague and South Bohemia. An example is her picture of bridges in Prague recalling a beautiful abstract design and conveying a mysterious atmosphere.

Yet Topham’s drawings from her trip are also special, especially the pen and ink ones featuring a town in South Bohemia where the houses are slightly off-balance. This style enhances the scene, imbuing it with a fairy tale demeanor as well.

Q: Your cover tapestry, “The Winter Light, Accabonac Harbor,” continues your signature style of establishing a special time and place, like your photographs and drawings of the Czech Republic. How did the cover image come about?

A: It’s part of my Sagaponack series. Several years ago, a friend of Andy Sabin’s commissioned me to do a work of his view. I took photographs and spent time doing a drawing. What evolved from that was a tapestry about 30 inches by 45 inches. I did other works based on that same view, like monotypes and one other tapestry.

Q: What are you doing now, tapestry-wise?

A: I am working on the fourth of the Sagaponack series, White’s Farm on lower Sag Main.

Q: Your trip to the Czech Republic was really important to you and gave you the chance to capture the landscape like you do in this area and elsewhere in the states.

A: The residency was in a 13th century town in South Bohemia and is a UNESCO heritage site. It had a beer factory, and I loved the beer. I thought beer was only to drink after you mowed the lawn in July.

Q: (laughing) I thought you only liked wine, considering you work for Wolffer Estate Vineyard. Anyway, you had a lovely time in Bohemia. What were some highlights, personally and professionally?

A: The Milkwood International Artists’ Residency gave me a studio apartment to stay in which was wonderful. My brother, whom I saw in Switzerland before I went to the Czech Republic, gave me a Canon camera small enough to hang around my neck. I wore it the whole day, and it changed things.  I did pencil sketches and took a bunch of photographs and then a final drawing from the information I gathered. I used the camera for an information resource. I call the images a “Photo Journal.”

Q: How is that particularly important?

A: It started me in a different direction. Even though the images are for information, they are beautiful in themselves.

Q: So how has the trip changed other things?

A: I am thinking about going back to Bohemia in 2013. I feel I should follow through with the passion I now have for my “Photo Journal.” The residency was a new awakening. I am thinking about it, missing it.

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