Text and photographs by Rosamond Purcell.
Quantuck Lane Press, New York, 2003. 224 pp., 44 black-and-white illustrations, 5¼x8¼".
Part archeology, part taxonomy, part New England yarn, Rosamond Purcell's Owls Head summons a photographer's eye for detail to bring to life William Buckminster and the valuables he has spent his life collecting.
A pile of broken clocks, a blue birdhouse, mountains of chandeliers-'This is the kind of thing I'd take to the dump,' Buckminster tells Purcell. 'What will you do with them?' he asks.
His scrapyard began as an antiques shop while his wife was still living, and now holds eleven acres of household objects, industrial scrap, antiques, and curiosities from the four corners of the earth: two hundred years of human history hidden deep in the forests of Maine. Purcell, who spends endless hours combing his collection for treasures on her own, does it, in the end, for the search itself. A pile of moldering dolls, startlingly human, is of forensic interest to Purcell who imagines dirt to be bruises, and crumpled plastic as wrinkled skin. For her, a roomful of sodden fabric, shiny and visceral, blurs the line between object and animal, as does a fossilized cat, hardened into an exquisitely detailed statue.
A labor of love, Owls Head details the twenty-year friendship that grows between Purcell and Buckminster as she catalogs the 'junk' that forms the sum total of his life. The result is uncanny yet lovely: a polished meditation on the beauty of decay, the comfort of objects, and the human quest for meaning.
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