What is a Picture Worth?

Dr. Rachel Sailor to Discuss the Relevance of Early Photography


TYLER, TX (June 14, 2010) – Is a picture still worth a thousand words? Dr. Rachel Sailor, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Tyler will deliver a lecture titled “Edward Curtis and the Continuing Relevance of Old Photographs” at the Tyler Museum of Art on Thursday, July 1, from 5:30-7:00 p.m. in the TMA Classroom. The lecture is the first of the Summer Lecture Series at the TMA and will draw from the current exhibition, The American Indian through the Eyes of Edward S. Curtis, on view in the Museum’s Bell Gallery through Sunday, August 15. There is no charge for the lecture, but participants are asked to reserve their space by calling the TMA at 903.595.1001.

The American Indian through the Eyes of Edward S. Curtis shows a selection of photogravures originally created by Curtis as a part of his attempt to produce a comprehensive recording of the lives of Native Americans. The oversized photogravures were compiled into portfolios (thirty-six to a set), which accompanied each of the twenty volume series called The North American Indian. These and the other images in the leather-bound collection of lavishly produced books by all accounts not only shaped the image of the American Indian in the public consciousness, but also left an indelible mark on the American culture.

Dr. Sailor will examine the theory that while the particular context into which Curtis’ work once fit has all but disappeared, audiences may still find relevance in the images he captured; she will also comment on what that significance means for today’s photographers. Other topics up for examination will be issues in contemporary, fine art photography such as artistic versus documentary images.

As photogravures, the Curtis images exemplify a printing process that was fully developed in the second half of the nineteenth-century, in which an image is photo-mechanically transferred to a metal plate: the image is etched onto the plate, and ink is applied by hand to the plate. The printer then presses paper to the plate and pulls it away to reveal the image. The resulting print is rich in continuous tone and has a unique satin-like finish. This intensely hands-on technique is still used by some contemporary photographers in order to produce a specific photographic effect, and the Curtis images on exhibition at the TMA are fine examples of an artful technique that has become quite rare.

The American Indian through the Eyes of Edward S. Curtis is on view in the Museum’s Bell Gallery with Cherokee Beadwork: Finding a Lost Art. The American Indian through the Eyes of Edward S. Curtis is sponsored by the Jean and Graham Devoe Williford Charitable Trust. Also on view in the North Gallery is Babar’s Museum of Art, organized by Mary Ryan Gallery, New York. The Tyler Museum of Art is supported by its Members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler.

The Tyler Museum of Art, accredited by the American Association of Museums, is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave., adjacent to the Tyler Junior College campus off East Fifth Street. Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. (The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.) Lunch is available in the Museum Café from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the TMA Gift Shop is open during Museum hours. For more information, call (903) 595-1001 or visit www.tylermuseum.org.