Amon Carter Museum of American Art Presents That Day: Laura Wilson

Release date: 
June 1, 2015

FORT WORTH, Texas—The Amon Carter Museum of American Art presents That Day: Laura Wilson on view September 5, 2015, through February 14, 2016. The exhibition of 71 photographs by Laura Wilson introduces the artist’s vision of the American West as a rural, hard-bitten land filled with fiercely independent people. Admission is free.

“Through her photographs, Wilson asks us to recognize the West that is, if not always a patriotic land with wholesome communities, a place where diverse lives can and do coexist,” says John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs at the Amon Carter.

The subjects of Wilson’s photographs include American Indian communities in South Dakota; debutantes in Laredo, Texas; Hutterite communities in Montana; people along the U.S.-Mexico border; ranchers in West Texas; rodeo performers in Fort Worth; and six-man football teams across Texas.

“I am drawn to people who live in an enclosed world—those people who live in isolated communities, whether by circumstance or accomplishment; I am curious and always want to know more,” says Wilson. “I don’t mean to say one way of life is better than another but merely to say that my wish, as Eudora Welty wrote, ‘would be not to point a finger in judgment but to part a curtain, that invisible shadow that falls between people, the veil of indifference to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.’ ”

Wilson’s interest in the American West began as a child in New England and blossomed when she moved to Texas in 1966. In 1979 she was hired to help Richard Avedon (1923–2004) with the now-classic In the American West project. Over the six years she worked with Avedon, she saw a lot of the rural West; and by watching him interact with his sitters, and by practicing her own photographic documentation of him at work, she established the terms for her own work. She embraced Avedon’s same passion for revealing the human condition, but she broadened this vision with her own unique eye.

“While Avedon always set his subjects against his signature white backdrop, she chose to leave her subjects in their worlds in order to highlight her recognition that going at it alone rarely works in the vast, often unforgiving landscape of the West,” says Rohrbach. “Whereas Avedon’s portraits are in many ways pictures of himself, Wilson’s photographs present communities beyond herself.”

That Day: Laura Wilson is supported in part by generous contributions from the Alturas Foundation, Mollie and Garland Lasater Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation of North Texas, Ruth Mutch, Salle Stemmons and Worthington National Bank. The exhibition is accompanied by the hardcover catalogue That Day: Pictures in the American West published by Yale University Press, which will retail for $50 in the Amon Carter Museum Store in September.

The artist will present a free lecture at the museum about the exhibition on Thursday, October 1 at 6 p.m. Call 817-989-5030 or email to reserve your seat beginning September 1. This program on American art, culture and society is made possible by a generous gift from the late Anne Burnett Tandy.

Laura Wilson’s work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Washington Post Magazine and London’s Sunday Times Magazine. She is the author of four books—Hutterites of Montana (Yale University Press, 2000), Watt Matthews of Lambshead (Texas Historical Association, 1989), Avedon at Work (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center/University of Texas Press, 2003) and Grit and Glory (Bright Sky Press, 2003). Wilson is currently working on two projects, one documents preeminent writers in the United States and abroad—men and women who will have a lasting literary legacy; and the second documents Hollywood directors, screenwriters, cinematographers and actors behind the scenes.