As surely as the Snake River pulses through the Tetons, the bloodstream of the mythic West runs through Ansel Adams’s photographs. America’s most famous nature photographer died in 1984, but his powerful images continue to shape the way we see the West.
That’s the core argument of the next presentation in the free summer lecture series, “Imagining the West,” to be held at 1:30 p.m. June 24 at Fort Lewis College’s Center of Southwest Studies. I will be showing and discussing photographs by Adams, Carlelton Watkins and others, plus paintings by Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran and others.
The series began June 10 with David Wenger’s talk on early Navajo weaving, “Aren’t You Dying to Know?” The talks continue on alternating Wednesdays throughout the summer, and there’s plenty of free parking.
A summer lecture series is an oddity in Durango. Who wants to be indoors on a beautiful Colorado day?
Well, three years ago, the center’s director, Jay Harrison, experimented with a stand-alone lecture in the middle of July, thinking that if people came, they might also visit the exhibits. The center’s gallery may be the best-kept secret in town for spectacular educational shows.
In 2013, a lone lecture was worth a try. It helped that it was an unorthodox presentation on Georgia O’Keeffe, based on a talk I had given earlier that year at a medical conference in Boston. That talk intertwined her bouts of depression and a nervous breakdown with a long, productive career – information that O’Keeffe worshippers tend to bury.
To our surprise, 105 people showed up, and afterward, most wandered into the exhibits. On the spot, Harrison decided to organize a series for 2014. We pooled ideas and quickly assembled a roster that included history, science and art.
At the end of the summer, Harrison will say goodbye as he leaves for a professorship at Hood College in Maryland. Anyone who knows Jay isn’t surprised. He’s a brilliant young scholar with superb administrative and teaching skills. We’ve been lucky to have him in Durango as long as we have.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, art historian and arts journalist.