Still Life in Photography: Laura Pickett CalfeeTags: art, Photo
“Casually displayed keepsakes, the symbols of everyday life are reminders of a cultural heritage that rarely makes it to the moving van.”
— Laura Pickett Calfee
This exhibition honoring the keeper of family memories and treasures brings together photographs from several different still life series created by Laura Pickett Calfee. Since the mid-1990s Calfee has photographed homes occupied by the same families for generations focusing on casually arranged mementos, lovingly used objects and telltale signs of previous owners. The intimate photographs illuminate the significance of the fading tradition of holding on to the home place and caring for objects handed down from generation to generation. The subtly-hued photographs place one or more specific objects into small carefully composed vignettes.
Photographs of vintage vessels are regal in their simplicity. The black and white Pitchers series bearing titles such as Amanda’s Teapot, Teapot on Damask, and The Dent transforms common, well-used tableware into icons for all of the family dinners over which the pots and their owners presided. Selections from the Still Life series features close-ups of sandwich and carnival glass laden with artichokes, kumquats, pomegranates or eggs lush with deep color and rich with personal associations. The Of a Place series features cherished objects in original home settings giving the impression that the owner had just stepped out. Homes she has photographed include those of Horton Foote, Larry McMurtry, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Calfee has also compiled audio recordings of informal chats with homeowners, preserving the unique syntax and vibrant vocabulary of voices that once filled the homes.
Calfee is drawn to the sense of place that resonates in objects and long-loved homes and the sense of community that is so strongly felt within. This exhibition demonstrates the emotional power of photography to impart the photographer’s affection for the delicate surfaces, the lyrical patterns and the vulnerable materials that make up the structure of our homes and our lives.
Laura Pickett Calfee was born and raised in Liberty, Texas where her forebears settled more than six generations ago. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and has studied photography through workshops and community school programs since 1987. Her award winning work is held by the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center Photography Collection, The Grace Museum and various private collections. Calfee is currently the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Government Relations for the University of Houston System and has served on the board of the Texas Photographic Society and Women and Their Work. She lives with her husband and a random assortment of animals in Driftwood, Texas.