Leaves of Grass

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Contraband Bayou, Louisiana, 1941 Photograph, Gelatin Silver Print © Courtesy of ARKANSAS ART CENTER-MUSEUM OF ART
Leaves of Grass

501 East 9th Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72202
February 1st, 2013 - April 21st, 2013
Opening: February 1st, 2013 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

United States
501 372 4000
Tue-Sat 10-5; Sun 11-5 / Library Hours: Tue-Wed 10-3


As America awaited the declaration of war in the spring of 1941, photographer Edward Weston set out on a cross-country photographic expedition. Weston, one of America's leading modernist photographers, was making photographs for a new edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The Limited Editions Club of New York commissioned these images to bring together the great nineteenth-century poet's verbal celebration of America with the great twentieth-century photographer's visual odyssey. Weston declined to literally illustrate Whitman's words, yet the two portraits of America echo one another. Where Whitman's nineteenth-century verse was shaped by the Civil War, Weston's images anticipated World War II.

Weston's trip lasted almost ten months, covering 24 states and nearly 25,000 miles. Weston and his wife, Charis Wilson, drove their trusty Ford, 'Walt,' throughout the South, the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and back home to California after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor brought about America's entry into the war. Weston's photographs include studies of decaying southern mansions, the Boulder Dam, a homely display of old bottles, the Grand Canyon, New Orleans cemeteries, and haunting portraits of people the photographer met along the way. Weston's images form no detached national survey; rather they embody an idiosyncratic personal meditation on selected American places, objects, and people. Edward Weston: Leaves of Grass includes 53 photographs chosen from the approximately 700 negatives Weston developed from the trip.