For the April Artist Spotlight, we are highlighting the Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing exhibit, currently on display at the Frist Art Museum now through May 27th. We had the privilege of interviewing Katie Delmez, curator at the Frist, to discuss more about Dorothea Lange as a photographer, the important significance of the works, and bringing this powerful exhibit to Nashville.
Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) is widely recognized as one of the most important documentary photographers of the twentieth century. She was a prominent advocate of the medium’s power to effect change and used her camera as a political tool to expose what she saw as injustices and inequalities. Lange was also a formidable woman of remarkable vigor and resilience. Having overcome adversity during her childhood in New Jersey, she went on to become a successful portrait photographer of San Francisco’s elite. In 1933, she took her camera to the streets for the first time to document the unemployed people—economically devastated by the Great Depression—she saw from her studio window. Later, she focused her attention on migrant farm laborers and refugees streaming into California from the Dust Bowl states in search of work. During much of this time, Lange worked for the government’s newly established Resettlement Administration (later called the Farm Security Administration), and her photographs were meant to be powerful arguments for federal assistance.
Although Lange’s photographs were taken more than fifty years ago, many of the issues they address remain relevant today: poverty, environmental degradation, treatment of immigrants, the erosion of rural communities, racial discrimination, and women’s rights. They also speak to the continuing role of visual images in shaping public opinion and political positions.
The exhibition encompasses more than 150 objects, including vintage and modern photographs, letters and a video.
Well, I fell in love with Art History when I was an undergraduate. In graduate school, I realized there was more than being in the sequestered ivory tower of academia and that I was really interested in both the actual object, as well as the idea of being able to connect with the larger audience. So museum work really seemed like the right fit for me!
One of my favorite things to do is to come in the galleries before the public at 10:00am. I can have the galleries to myself where its quiet and I can walk through and have a moment with some of my favorite works of art. It’s definitely a perk of my job!
I would say to start those internships as early as you can and make the most of it! We all start at the beginning and maybe doing some projects that we aren’t super into. Taking advantage of those opportunities and connections is just really important. Stick with it and give it your all. Talk to as many people as possible. The art community is still small, and I feel like there is definitely an interest in trying to help those that are coming down the pipe.
Oh Wow, that’s hard! That’s like picking your favorite child. I’d have to go with some exhibits I’ve worked on at the Frist in the past 20 years. Artists like Carrie Mae Weems, Nick Cave, Shinique Smith, and Terry Adkins. Those are artists that I very much admire and would have to put at the top of my list.
I love trying to sample all of our new restaurants; although it’s very hard to keep up with that. There are multiple events happening each week that anyone can go to. Really trying to hit all the great art destinations in town is something that I like to do and hope others will do as well.