Friday, August 12, 2016

I See Beauty In This Life: A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California

(Left) Lisa M. Hamilton, Jesús, Junior Livestock Show, Alturas, Modoc County, 2011
Courtesy Lisa M. Hamilton
(Right) Charles C. Pierce, Young Chemehuevi Indian Man Holding a Coyote, c. 1900
Courtesy California Historical Society

"I always wanted people to understand what was going on in the rural routes. And that there certainly should be some regard for the people there. Because I see beauty in this life, I don’t think it is lonesome. And I don’t think it is dumb." 
- Modoc County rancher and poet, Linda Hussa, 2011

How do we make history relevant? One way is by engaging in a dialogue with the past. Curating California, a California Historical Society initiative, invites artists and scholars to collaborate with our extensive collections and curate some aspect of the Golden State’s history.

Since 2012, CHS’s inaugural Curating California exhibition I See Beauty in This Life: A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California has been traveling the state, bringing a dialogue about rural California and its impact on California to exhibition venues in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Riverside, and now Merced (opening August 9th at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center). In curating the show, Lisa M. Hamilton, a writer and photographer, has drawn from her multimedia project, Real Rural—a photographic investigation of the state’s rural areas — and historic photographs from the CHS photographs collection. Together they tell a complex—and sometimes humorous — story of the many different individual lives and landscapes comprising the vast mosaic that is the Golden State.

Photographer unknown, California License Plate, c. 1960
Courtesy California Historical Society, California Wool Growers Association Photograph Collection

The following image groupings reflect not how the photographs appear in the exhibition but rather this author’s own interpretation of the show’s visual dialogue between past and present. 

Joe Rosenthal, Jack Roddy Bulldogging, c. 1969 
Courtesy California Historical Society

Lisa M. Hamilton, Ashley, Riata Ranch Cowboy Girl, Tulare County. 2011 
Courtesy of the artist
Lisa M. Hamilton, Bella, Citrus Fair. Cloverdale, Sonoma County, 2011
Courtesy of the artist

Photographer unknown, Renee Cotta, Kings District Fair, Received a Red, 1966 
California Historical Society 

Lisa M. Hamilton, Michael Preston. Winnemem Wintu Tribal Land, Shasta County, 2011 
Courtesy of the artist 

Charles C. Pierce, Paiute Indian Acorn Cache or Granary in Yosemite Valley, c. 1901
California Historical Society Collections at the University of Southern California 

Lisa M. Hamilton, Dennis Leonardi. Ferndale, Humboldt County, 2011 
Courtesy of the artist 

Photographer unknown, Les Bruhn, Bodega Bay, with "Queen," won 2nd place, 26th annual Fox Western International Sheep Dog Trials at California Ram Sale, Sacramento, 1964 
Courtesy California Historical Society


Visit the Exhibition
Curated by Lisa M. Hamilton

August 9, 2016 – October 1, 2016
Merced Multicultural Arts Center
645 W. Main Street, Merced, CA 95340

Opening reception: August 12, 2016

The California Historical Society and the California 4-H Foundation thank the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation for its support in bringing this exhibition to the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. This exhibition was originally mounted at the California Historical Society in 2012 and is made possible by the following CHS sponsors: Stephen and Barbara Hearst; Sherwin-Williams; California Department of Food and Agriculture; California Rangeland Trust; Bill Lane Center for the American West; and Julie and Craig McNamara.

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