Nancy Rexroth, “My Mother, Pennsville, Ohio” (1971)

After 20 months closed, Ten Nineteen, an art space in New Orleans’s Lower Garden District, re-opens with Nancy Rexroth: IOWA, an exhibition featuring rare images from the photographer’s pioneering series from the 1970s.

From 1970 to 1976, Nancy Rexroth created a series of images that evoke her emotions and memories of her childhood in the Midwest. At a moment when photographic precision was held high, Rexroth opted for a $1.50 toy camera (the “Diana”) that had irregular exposures, bent perspectives, and faulty focus. She further manipulated her images by deliberately blurring or overlaying them, abandoning form in the name of feeling, description for evocation. The result was a haunting, dream-like aesthetic that vibrated with joy, sadness, and longing. As Rexroth explains, the Diana offered “a pathway from the highly technical to the more internally sensitive.”

Nancy Rexroth, “Mother’s Knees, Albany, Ohio” (1975)

In 1977, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rexroth self-published the series in a book titled IOWA — slightly confusing as the images were captured in Ohio. Yet as Rexroth explains, she wanted to demonstrate that “a photograph doesn’t have to be about the subject at hand. It can be about intangibles, about emotions.” These were about her memories and dreams of childhood summers spent in Iowa. The approach and aesthetic mesmerized the photographic community, and soon after the book’s publication, institutions like Aperture, International Center for Photography, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum highlighted works from IOWA in their contemporary photography exhibitions and publications.

“The IOWA series left an indelible mark on the history of photography,” explains Ten Nineteen’s Elizabeth Monaghan, who organized the show. “It showed us that photography can do more than document a moment in time; it can reflect a very personal interiority. It’s about the artist’s vision, not the tool in her hand. And more than four decades later, these images still have the effect of something urgently new.”

The exhibition is on view now through January 30, 2022, at Ten Nineteen, located at 1019 Erato Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For more information, visit ten-nineteen.org.

Nancy Rexroth, “Folding House, New Lexington, Ohio” (1974)
Nancy Rexroth, “Curtains, Pomeroy, Ohio” (1970)
Installation view of Nancy Rexroth: IOWA at Ten Nineteen in 2021 (photo by Ryan Hogdson Rigsbee)

The Latest

Alone in a Dirty, Sacred Space

Whatever else Mire Lee’s Carriers is about, it seems to me that has to do with sending you back into yourself, which is not necessarily a soothing place.