From the Collection: Photographs by Wright Morris

Wright Morris was an American novelist, photographer, and essayist known for his portrayals of people and artifacts of the Great Plains, and for experimenting with narrative forms. (source)

The following photographs, donated to the Mead in 2013, appeared in Morris’s published “photo-texts” – pairings of his photographs with passages of his writing. The photographs aren’t meant to illustrate the text, and the text isn’t intended as a description for the photographs. Instead, the pairings are meant to enhance and expand the viewer’s own interpretation of each.

Dresser Drawer, near Norfolk, Nebraska2013-01-6“I looked at the odds and ends on the bureau, the pincushion lid on the cigar box, the faded Legion poppies, assorted pills, patent medicines. There was not a thing of beauty, a manmade loveliness, anywhere. A strange thing, for whatever it was I was feeling, at that moment, was what I expect a thing of beauty to make me feel. To take me out of my self, into the selves of other things. I’ve been in the habit, recently, of saying that if we could feel anything, very long, it would kill us, and that we get on by not even feeling ourselves. To keep that from happening we have this thing called embarrassment. That snaps it off, like an antisepsis, or we rely on our wives, or one of our friends, to take the pressure out of the room with a crack of some kind. That’s what I was about to do. For once in my life I didn’t, but as I had to do something I went into Ed’s room and opened the bureau drawer, and called, ‘Oh, Peg!’ When she came in I said–’Ed used to hunt. He used to go off for a day at a time, with a dog and a gun, up the river. When I was a kid there was still a wolf or two around here.’ I said that, then I closed the drawer, making it clear that we could mind his public business, but leave his private business alone.”

 Gano Grain Elevator, Western Kansas2013-01-1“Donaldson’s hitch bar would have to go. So would the split elm and the horse trough full of marbles, the old chain swing. Mr. Cole said the horses would soon go too. Cement paving would wear their hooves to the bone, he said. Willie said, for what did horses have shoes? Mr. Cole spit and said some day the paving would go right out of town. It would go to the east first, and then it would go to the west. He said when Willie had kids he’d bet their kids would ride it for miles. And when their kids had kids they’d ride it clear to Omaha. Willie rolled up his sleeve and felt in the horse trough for marbles. What makes you think, Willie said, that I’m goin’ in for kids?”

House in Winter, Eastern Nebraska2013-01-3“But they never get big enough to hold all the men that left them–the roads lead back, but the travel is still the other way.

I have here, said the man–some beautiful handmade flowers.
He picked one up from the top of the suit box, sniffed at it.
I have just forty-two cents, I said.
It’s a quarter, he said.
It’s worth forty-two, I said.
The lilies, he said, are worth a dollar.
I put my hand out for the quarter one but the man gave me the lily.
I want the other one, I said.
I’m giving you this one, he said.
I’ve only forty-two cents, I said.
I’m giving you this one, he said.
Now listen–I said.
I can give it too, he said.
Now listen here–I said.
I’m not a beggar, he said.
Of course not, I said, you’re in business.
It’s slow, he said, but it’s a business.
But business, I said is business–
I’m giving you this one, he said.
Well, thank you very much–I said.
I can give it too–he said, and walked away.”

To see more of Morris’s photographs and paired writings from the collection, click here.

From the Collection: Watercolor Paintings

Today we’re sharing a random assortment of beautiful watercolor paintings from the collection by artists from around the world:

2001_299The Queen of Spades by Russian artist Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinskii (Doboujinsky), 1931

1961-138Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethsemane by British artist Edward Lear, 1858

1979-104Garden Scene by French artist Horace Castelli, 1860

1977-45Village Scene by German artist Gerhardt Wilhelm von Reutern, July 1827

1953-17Avignon by American artist Ogden M. Pleissner

image sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5


Monday Morning Muse: Empress Octacilia

This ancient marble sculpture of Roman Empress Octacilia from the 3rd century A.D. joined the Mead’s collection in 1941.


“Marcia Otacilia Severa or Otacilia Severa was the Empress of Rome and wife of Emperor Marcus Julius Philippus, or Philip the Arab, who reigned over the Roman Empire from 244 to 249. Severa and Philip are generally considered as the first Christian imperial couple, because during their reign the persecutions of Christians had ceased and the couple had become tolerant towards Christianism. It was through her intervention, for instance, that Bishop and Saint Babylas of Antioch was saved from persecution.” (source)

image source: Empress Octacilia



Monday Morning Muse: She’s Got the Point

This charcoal drawing by American artist John Sloan joined the collection in 1954.


John Sloan first studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then with Robert Henri, before becoming an illustrator for Philadelphia newspapers. He moved to New York in 1902 where he taught at the Art Students League and was affiliated with The Eight. In 1910 he joined the socialist party, and was the art editor of a radical journal called The Masses. Like his colleagues, Sloan was concerned with social issues as he chronicled life in New York. He was particularly interested in the women’s suffragette movement as this lively drawing, “She’s Got the Point,” demonstrates. In this charcoal, Sloan recounts a particularly stirring moment at a rally held by the Women’s Suffragette Party. The image appeared in the October 1913 issue of The Masses.

The Mead holds many works by Sloan, including the following “Self-Portrait” and “Robert Henri Painting a Portrait.”



image sources: 1 / 2 / 3

From the Collection: Photographs by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons

Cuban artist Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons created this work – titled Voyeurs & Beholders of . . . – in response to the Iraq War. “When I see what is going on in the world, I feel like crying,” she said in a 2008 interview.

Pons 1

Voyeurs & Beholders of . . . is made up of five photographs in which Campos-Pons subtly confronts the viewer with issues of gender and race. She has outlined the large eyes in the foreground with long strands of frizzy black hair, which reflects her own concern with the voyeuristic perception of women—especially black women. The absence of faces, however, makes the eyes ambivalent. While hair and crying conventionally suggest the “weaker sex,” the act of watching—of being a voyeur—has traditionally masculine connotations.

Pons 2

Voyeurs & Beholders of . . . is on view in the exhibition New Arrivals: Modern and Contemporary Additions to the Collection through June 29.

image sources: 1 / 2

Photographs by Frank Paulin

The following photographs by American artist and photographer Frank Paulin joined the Mead’s collection in 2010.

2010-14Woman with Arms Crossed, Ridgefield, New Jersey, July 4, 1980

2010-03Carousel, New Orleans, 1952 (printed later)

2010-05Girl on Steps, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1952

“My interest in photography developed during World War II, when I spent two years in the Signal Corps in Europe, and wandered through the ruins of bombed cities… Following the war, I enrolled at the Chicago Institute of Design where Harry Callahan, Arthur Siegel and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy were among my instructors… My talent for drawing served me well while allowing time to pursue photography, what I really loved most. I also worked for some time as a fashion photographer, but preferred wandering the streets of American and European cities, especially those of New York City and Paris, taking pictures of people doing ordinary things, seeking discovery on every corner.” –Frank Paulin,

To see more works from the collection by Frank Paulin, click here.

image sources: 1 / 2 / 3

From The Collection: Photographs by Jim Dow

The following chromogenic prints by American photographer Jim Dow, featured in the upcoming exhibition New Arrivals: Modern and Contemporary Additions to the Collection, were gifted to the Mead in 2012.

Window at Jess’s Lunch. US 11 & 33. Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1998

Facade of the Martin Theatre. Talladega, Alabama. 1978

Bar at Mrs. Turner’s Restaurant. New Orleans, Louisiana, 1977

Stand Selling Tomatoes. Yardley, Pennsylvania. 1979

Dairy Queen at Night. Iowa City, Iowa. 1988

To see even more works from the collection by the artist, click here.