Professional Dreamer: A Portrait of Moses Pendleton


As a young student, Moses Pendleton presented his thesis on Percy Shelly’s “Ode to a Skylark” in the Wren Room, an ornately decorated, wood paneled area on the first floor of the library at Dartmouth. Before Professor Finch, Pendleton re-enacted Shelly’s creation of the poem for he believed that a true portrait of an artist can emerge from an understanding of their artistic process. Amid the recitations of verse he crumpled paper and moved with purpose as he constructed his portrait of Shelly. Once the poem was completed, Pendleton opened up the window, extended his arms as if they were wings and jumped out. When he returned, his professor said with astonishment that he had nothing to compare it to and Pendleton received an A.
Photo image:  (c) moses pendleton photograph of the photograph within the gallery for media purposes of the event only. not for reproduction.

Moses Pendleton is a creator who has never had to think outside the box, he lives there and it only when there is merit and the situation demands that he chooses to think inside one.  The creative path he forged during his formative years bore fruit many times over as he formed Pilobolus and then MOMIX companies, both world renowned institutions of modern dance. MOMIX will celebrate its 35th anniversary this year at the Warner Theatre in Torrington January 17th and 18th.

Creators such as Pendleton harness their muse through many forms of expression so it is no surprise that this celebrated dancer and choreographer is also an accomplished photographer whose work has been exhibited in Rome, Milan, Florence, Aspen and now in Connecticut at the Five Points Arts Gallery in Torrington.  The opening reception for his exhibit “Moses Pendleton Photographs and takes long walks in the country” will be Friday January 9th from 6-8pm. 

Judith McElhone, Executive Director of the Five Points Galley sees the connection between Pendleton’s photography and his celebrated choreography. “I was drawn to Moses Pendleton’s botanical photographic work because of the role they play in his choreographic decisions. When juxtaposed with his photos of his dancers, they are, for me at least, a kind of visual documentation of the “connections between things” that are the essential hallmark of creativity,” says McElhone.

Pendleton appreciates McElhone’s view for there is a clear cross over between his photographs of nature and the thematic elements in his choreography. He explains that dance is physical visual theater, there are lights and music and the movements all of which are used to stimulate the imagination. “…To seek out those things that are strange and beautiful,” he says.  As a photographer he is a solitary hunter searching for marvels that he experiences through the lens and captures with a Click. Click. Click.  Through long solitary walks he discovers Pan’s acres in frozen cornfields or faces from mythology in rotting pumpkins.

“I’m a Professional dreamer,” he says, and in part his job is “opening up the unconscious to see what’s in the stream”. There is an experience through the art of photography in nature. “The experience is making contact with the non-human and with it comes the sensation that we are not alone. The plight of the artist is not to be desensitized and lose experience.”

It is important to note that the name of the upcoming Five Points exhibit is not Moses Pendleton Photographs, it is “Moses Pendleton Photographs and takes Long Walks in the Country” Photographs is an action. It is a verb as much as it is the noun that describes the result. Long Walks in the Country recalls the Emersonian ideals of being connected to our natural surroundings.

To prepare for the exhibit Pendleton poured through millions of photos. With his Nikon camera in wooded hills he is a hunter but as he reviews each photograph he has taken, he is the farmer who has tended his crops and cherishes the experience of seeing the growth he has documented. In some ways he finds a similarity to the profound experience of seeing the growth of his daughter Quinn Pendleton, a celebrated dancer in her own right as is her mother, dancer and choreographer Cynthia Quinn. Pendleton shares that a great moment for the family was related to the Nutmeg Ballet in Torrington for he played Drosselmeyer to Quinn Pendleton’s Clara in a production of the Nutcracker.

His selection process of the photographs for the exhibit or the dances to be performed of a 35th anniversary MOMIX production may one day be subject of another young student’s future thesis as each decision that was made provides a clearer portrait of the artist, Moses Pendleton.

Connecticut has the opportunity to experience the creations of Moses Pendleton this January. MOMIX “35th Anniversary Show: A CELEBRATION OF COMPANY FAVORITES” is January 17th and 18th at 8pm and in this program, through lights, music, movement, we can experience the visual theater that will “stimulate the imagination”.

“Moses Pendleton Photographs and takes Long Walks in the Country” is the photography exhibit at the Five Points Gallery Torrington, CT. The opening reception is 1/9/2015 from 6-8pm. It is free to the public.