Laura Pickett Calfee: The Dutiful Daughter

Pomegranate with Mother's Sandwich Glass © Laura Pickett Calfee

Pomegranate with Mother’s Sandwich Glass © Laura Pickett Calfee

November 7-December 21, 2013
opening reception: November 16, 2013 6-8pm

Featuring selections from the recent Grace Museum exhibit exquisitely curated by Judy Tedfor Deaton.

“The Dutiful Daughter is an exhibition of still life photography by Laura Pickett Calfee. It is a tribute to  the keeper of family memories and the timlessness of significant objects.” – Judy Tedfor Deaton


An Essay By Arthur Ollman, Director

Museum of Photographic Art

San Diego, California

Ms. Calfee’s work always puts me in mind of William Eggleston. A sort of female Eggleston. If Eggleston were not so male he might be more attached to belonging rather than attached to observing. But Ms. Calfee is deeply attached. She is of her place the way that soil is of its place. She is part of a powerful movement in photography, a sort of Southern literary photography which is devoted to belonging to place. It is the legacy of Walker Evans, Eggleston, Bill Christenberry, and the next generation of Birney Imes,, Debbie Caffrey, and Keith Carter. They each are attached to place, to the idiosyncracies of people in small towns, tucked away to nurture their distinctiveness, away from CNN, the Times, and Holiday Inn. They love their small yards, their misbred animals, their square dance trophies, and the stuffed buckhead on the wall with half the nose blown away. Laura Calfee is in there working the light, the combinations, and plucking poetry from the plastic flowers.

I tend not to like fussy pictures, nostalgic froo-froo photographs of sad places with poor victimized people. I know the planet has some ugly, unfortunate patches. I also know, logically, that many of those areas have pockets of beauty, of realization, of composting wisdom, of nearly spiritual understand of how life spins, seen in simple surroundings. It takes a skilled translator to parse out the sweet passages without becoming sticky. This woman is there, she is really there. If you look at these photographs and miss that, you’ve had too long a day, and need to put your feet up for a spell. She isn’t flamboyant. She isn’t in anyone’s face but she is one of the people who is not steeped in elegant alienation, or dyspepsia. She is elegantly affirmative. And she is a native, about it. This isn’t a theory she picked up at art school, she is of it, from it, and in it. I’m not, but she takes me there. I don’t know if this sort of life in the small towns is dying, I’ve read that it is. But it certainly doesn’t get covered this way very often. We just don’t get in to these places regularly. And when we do, they aren’t so exotic that everyone runs for their camera. These are the homes that if you are lucky enough to get into, you may not realize until after you leave that the place had a wonderful wholeness and peace about it, that many   people over many generations, wore it in and then wore it out. They sanded it smooth, lovingly and with all the constancy that it takes to stay, for the kids, for the marriage, for the church, for the reputation, for the hell of it, for the memories, for the graves of the family around the corner.

Laura Calfee is a superb photographer doing what comes naturally. That ought to be enough right there. How often have you seen photographs wherein you can smell what was cooked for lunch that afternoon?

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