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Published: Monday, 7/3/2006

Photo exhibit draws nature lovers indoors

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mike Fanning of Cincinnati takes in the Museum of Art's exhibit of nature photographs by Ansel Adams. Mike Fanning of Cincinnati takes in the Museum of Art's exhibit of nature photographs by Ansel Adams.
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On a day like yesterday, Ansel Adams might have headed outside to shoot pictures of raindrops on the grass.

The rain, however, gave area folks the opposite idea as they went inside the Toledo Museum of Art to look at the photographer's interpretations of nature in an exhibit of 39 images called Visions of the West.

There were about 50 people in the small gallery at some points yesterday during guide Diane Zitzelberger's tour of the exhibit, which opened Friday and runs through Sept. 24.

She said the crowds, and possibly the weather, made it one of the largest tours she's ever conducted. She's led hundreds of tours at the museum since 1992.

"Today's a nice day as far as I'm concerned," she said, despite the thunderstorms.

Ms. Zitzelberger said she spent about eight hours preparing her tour, which included anecdotes from Adams' childhood in the early 1900s; he was given a Kodak Box Brownie camera at age 14 to take pictures on a family vacation in Yosemite National Park.

She welcomed the crowd made larger by weather.

"Sometimes you stand there and nobody comes. And it's very disappointing because you've done a lot of research," she said.

But yesterday, the Adams exhibit of shots ranging from imposing mountains to small flowers drew folks such as Natalie Olech and Sean Spaniol, students at Central Michigan University. They went to the museum after driving to Cedar Point, only to make a U-turn after spotting lightning over the amusement park.

Ms. Olech's bathing suit, originally donned for a day outside, peeked out from her outer clothing. She said she enjoyed the emotion she saw in Adams' work. "There's a certain serenity and peacefulness, and you almost feel like you're there," she said. "He captured the feeling of nature perfectly."

Adams' photos didn't appear to generate that much enthusiasm from 4 1/2-month-old Trent Chlebek. But he loved watching other art lovers on his first visit to the museum with parents Terry and Jean Chlebek of suburban Detroit. They had visited the museum on one of their first dates three years ago to see the Van Gogh exhibit.

For some - especially travelers in the area for the Independence Day holiday - the museum was a destination and the exhibit a nice surprise.

Toby and Lisa Autry of Charlotte, N.C., were in Toledo for the holiday.

Mrs. Autry, who taught art at the museum, was showing her new husband the Toledo landmark for the first time.

The Adams exhibit, however, was a significant draw in itself, bringing people such as Dave Bewley, a professional photographer from Bowling Green, and his wife, Debby, an artist, to the museum specifically for those works. Mr. Bewley keeps an Ansel Adams poster in his office.

When Ed Bachmeyer, a visitors service representative, filled in on the museum switchboard he answered a call about every 10 minutes that was specifically about the exhibit, he said. "It's generated a lot of interest for a small exhibition."

That's no surprise. Adams, who produced some 40,000 photos over a seven-decade career, is one of the 20th century's best-known photographers. He died in 1984.

More than 2,000 people saw the Adams exhibit from its opening Friday afternoon through yesterday afternoon, according to estimates from museum spokesman Jordan Rundgren. Before the free exhibit closes, she predicted, more than 25,000 people will walk through.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.



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