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Intellect

Dorothea Lange photos of Utah towns next BYU MOA show

Opening Jan. 21, on display through April 30

In August 1953, renown American photographer Dorothea Lange traveled to southern Utah where she met up with her long-time friend Ansel Adams. The two photographers spent three weeks photographing the landscape and people of Toquerville, Gunlock and St. George with the intention of publishing the work in LIFE magazine.  
 
Lange’s enthusiasm for her subject yielded hundreds of photographs from which she composed an extended essay of 135 photographs, including images by Ansel Adams. Thirty-five of those photographs with text by Daniel Dixon appeared under the title “Three Mormon Towns” in the September 6, 1954 issue of LIFE.

“Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns,” a new exhibition at the BYU Museum of Art, will feature 21 of Lange’s photographs from this series acquired by the museum. The exhibition will also draw from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago and the collection of John and Lolita Dixon.
 
The 62 vintage prints in the exhibition, accompanied by excerpts from Dixon’s original text, will examine Lange’s lasting interest in the people of southern Utah and their relationship with the land, their heritage and the transformation of the West in post-war America.   
 
“Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns” will be on view in the Warren & Alice Jones and Paul & Betty Boshard galleries on the lower level of the museum from Friday, Jan. 21, 2011 through Saturday, April 30, 2011. Free docent-led tours of this exhibition can be scheduled with at least one week’s notice by calling the Museum Education Department at (801) 422-1140. More information about this exhibition will be available on the Museum of Art Web site, moa.byu.edu.
 
The Museum of Art will host a lecture and exhibition preview on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 from 7 to 9 p.m. Diana Turnbow, curator of photography at the BYU Museum of Art, will present a lecture titled “Exploring the Origins of ‘Three Mormon Towns’” at 7 p.m. in the auditorium on the museum’s lower level. Admission to the lecture and exhibition is free of charge.
 
Support for this exhibition has been provided by the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.
 
“Subtle and poetic, the series of photographs that has come to be known as ‘Three Mormon Towns’ is a bridge between Lange’s famous Depression Era photographs and her detailed photo essays of the 1950s,” Turnbow said.
 
Utah attracted Lange’s interest when she and her first husband, Maynard Dixon, spent the summer of 1933 camping and working in Zion National Park. She originally intended to photograph southern Utah with the support of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 1941; however, a family crisis, followed by the onset of World War II prevented Lange from traveling to Utah. Yet, the desire to photograph the Mormon towns of southern Utah never faded. In 1953, Lange returned to the place that had captured her attention decades earlier.
 
“While Lange’s photographs depict communities bound together by hard work and religion in the formidable landscape of the Colorado Plateau, they also explore the changes that were beginning to affect not only Utah, but rural communities throughout the United States,” Turnbow said. “‘Three Mormon Towns’ was a study of contrasts—of old and new, of quiet villages and a growing city, of deep roots and transient highways.  In this series, Lange memorialized the dignity and simplicity of agrarian life in light of post-war urbanization.”

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