SHARON - Many area residents knew the late James Tupper as the owner and operator of Jim's Automotive Center, a Norwood business he owned and ran for 30 years.
But the Wrentham resident had talents in other areas as well. Tupper, who died last April at age 54, was also a naturalist and an artist noted for his stunning outdoor photographs of Massachusetts wildflowers. His pictures have frequently been exhibited in the education centers at area wildlife sanctuaries.
"He was very highly regarded," says Jan Nareski Goba, exhibit curator at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, a Massachusetts Audubon preserve. "He had an unusual sense of composition. Some of his photographs are very close up and appear almost abstract. He could take both wildflowers and his viewers to a higher level of reflection and curiosity."
This summer and fall those who loved Tupper's floral photographs will have another opportunity to appreciate his work. A selection of his pictures - titled "A Collection of Flowers" - is hanging in the nature center gallery at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary through Oct. 15.
At the same time, Moose Hill is hosting a juried art exhibit titled "Flowers," with works inspired by that subject in a variety of mediums. The exhibit features the work of Matt Apone, Lawrence Brink, Linda DeStefano Brown, Aimee Beth Grace, Zig Guzikowski, Fernando Martins, Rajasri Nalatwad, Jim Pennypacker, Nicholas Read, Susan Simon, Trina Treele and Mary Wilkas.
"It's a beautiful exhibit," Goba says. "You can almost smell the flowers."
Tupper was born and raised in Springfield, Vt. Asked to write a statement about his artwork, he pointed to the natural surroundings in his home state as an early inspiration. "From growing up in rural Vermont, nature, every thread, every level, all that encompasses it, influenced me. There was so much to learn and find and see in nature."
He also called attention to his wife, Anna, whom he met after moving to Massachusetts, and the family they raised together.
"My first of many inspirations began the day when I met this cute girl that walked into my shop," he said. "With her, my life's clock truly started. Eventually we married and had children. And with each child, everything became more and more foveal," he wrote, referencing human visual acuity and the artist who first studied the forveal system, Leonardo DaVinci.
"Wanting to capture my children's lives as they grew, I started photography. As time went on I started to take pictures of what caught my eye and stood out. To take an ugly old weed and make it appealing, to see it in a different light touches on true reality and lets you see deeper into yourself.
"To let one discover the beauty or help one discover the true beauty hidden in their everyday surroundings; that's when a new level of desire to add depth, clarity and meaning to my photography developed. Being a person of few words, photography became my outlet. Through taking photos I have gained so much more than I ever expected. Thank you to my beautiful wife (and) my children Justin, Julia and Christina - my true inspirations!"
Tupper eventually bought a piece of land in the Berkshires and built a rustic cabin there for family getaways. It was there that he did much of his photography.
"He loved hiking and was a true nature lover and outdoorsman," Goba says.
Tupper contributed many of his photographs to the Massachusetts Audubon Society and also gave some away to those who appreciated his work.
"During an exhibit last year, he issued a challenge to viewers," Goba said. "He asked them to suggest a name for one of his pictures - a close up of cherry blossoms - and promised to present the framed photograph to the person who came up with the winning name. One woman felt the flowers resembled Bradford pear blossoms, and that (they) also looked like a family gathering. She called it 'The Bradfords.' That struck him as something very special."
The "Flowers" exhibit and the exhibit of Tupper's work run through Oct. 15 at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, 293 Moose Hill St., Sharon. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 pm.. daily. Visit massaudubon.org or call 781-784-5691 for further details.