Historical Society records 'poetry of the world'

SHARON — The Sharon Historical Society will open its newest exhibit, “Monet’s Gardens: Giverny, Provence and Berry†on Saturday, Nov. 21, with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. The exhibit is a collection of photographs taken by North  Canaan resident Jean Yves Valette and inspired by the works of Monet.

“They are photos of a carefully cultivated and landscaped nature,†said Liz Shapiro, the historical society’s executive director. “They are lovely and graceful photographs, the perfect reminder of beautiful summers gone by, which is wonderful for the drab winter.â€

Valette was born in Mali, West Africa, into a French military family.

At 16, he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where he studied set design, painting and sculpture.

After graduating, he enlisted in the French Navy and became a set designer for their theater company.

He moved to Connecticut in 1972 and spent several years as a commercial and portrait photographer.

Valette became interested in using his photography skills to record the human condition after seeing a movie about the rampant poverty in Cape Horn, Africa.

He traveled throughout Africa, Central America, Haiti and the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky documenting the social conditions he encountered in each locale.

“It feels like all of my life I have been taking photographs of the human tragedy throughout the world,†Valette said, speaking with a rich French accent. “A few years ago I became sick and I lost a good part of my vision. I was not able to take photographs.â€

Valette said that when his vision came back two years ago, he wanted to rededicate his photography skills to recording the beauty in the world.

“I think that before I was taking photos in order to make a social and political statement,†he said. “Now I’m more interested in recording the poetry of the world and the embodiment of it.â€

The exhibition honors French impressionist painter Claude Monet, whom Valette cites as an important influence.

“I’m trying to use my camera as a paintbrush,†Valette said. “I feel like we take nature for granted. For me, when you take photographs, you have to go beyond and let your soul and heart talk to you.â€

The exhibit runs until Friday, Jan. 8. The Historical Society is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call 860-364-5688 or visit sharonhist.org.

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