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In the galleries: Jason Reed’s "Motel, Terlingua" and W. D. Smithers’s "View of Study Butte, Texas"

By Abigail Cain

Jason Reed, "Motel, Terlingua," 2011. Courtesy of artist.
Jason Reed, "Motel, Terlingua," 2011. Courtesy of artist.
W.D. Smithers, "View of Study Butte, Texas," 1932.
W.D. Smithers, "View of Study Butte, Texas," 1932.

As photographer Jason Reed sat in the reading room of the Ransom Center, awaiting a box of Walker Evans photographs, he noticed a binder on the reference shelf nearby. In what he calls a “moment of coincidence,” he picked it up and discovered notes and captions describing photographs of West Texas—both the place he grew up and the area he has spent his life exploring through video and photography.

The binder contained a finding aid to the work of early-twentieth-century photographer W. D. Smithers, whose archive is held by the Ransom Center. Although 80 years separate the two artists, their work shares an uncanny similarity—take Reed’s Motel, Terlingua (2011) and Smithers’s View of Study Butte, Texas (1932) as an example.

The relationship between archives and the work of modern-day artists is the subject of the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archive. Created in conjunction with the Lakes Were Rivers collective, an Austin-based group of artists working in photography and video, the exhibition highlights members’ works that were influenced in some way by the Ransom Center. Approximately 50 new works are displayed alongside Ransom Center collection materials chosen by the artists.

Smithers began his career in commercial photography when he was 15 years old, eventually working as an aerial photographer for the U.S. Army Aviation Service during World War I. Between 1935 and 1939, under a contract with the International Boundary and Water Commission, Smithers photographed the entire U.S.-Mexican Border from Brownsville to San Diego.

Reed, too, focuses on the interplay between culture and land in the Texas-Mexico borderland. By pairing his and Smithers’s works, he said, “I work to elicit historical comparison and dialogue with the past while also creating space to reflect on photography’s role as an index of place and time, its inherent limitations in telling histories, and the archive as a catalyst in forming new ways of seeing.”

Motel, Terlingua and View of Study Butte, Texas are on display in the Ransom Center until August 4. On July 18, the artists of Lakes Were Rivers will discuss their work at 7 p.m. in the galleries.

Enter to win tickets to an “All-Star Evening”

By Christine Lee

E.O. Goldbeck, Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, San Antonio, Texas, March 31, 1922.
E.O. Goldbeck, Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, San Antonio, Texas, March 31, 1922.

The galleries are being transformed in preparation for the Ransom Center’s new summer exhibitions Literature and Sport and Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archive. We hope you will join us for an “All-Star Evening,” the opening celebration for the exhibitions from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 14.

Be among the first to explore the literary all-stars featured in the Literature and Sport exhibition. Enjoy ballpark-inspired snacks including frozen pops from GoodPop, hot dogs and veggie dogs, mini soft pretzels, and more. Sip on a refreshing summertime cocktail from Dripping Springs Vodka, sangria from the Austin Wine Merchant, or locally brewed beer from Live Oak Brewing Company.

At the event, enter to win a sports-inspired prize package that includes a sports massage, two platinum film fan memberships to the Paramount Theatre, dinner for two at Lamberts, and more. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet Spike, the Round Rock Express mascot, and show off their best baseball player pose in our baseball card photo booth. Members will receive a printed version of their baseball card as a party favor!

Ransom Center members enjoy complimentary admission and valet parking at this event. If you are not yet a member, you may join or order individual $20 tickets at the door. Tickets are also available online until Friday, June 7. Valet parking is not included for non-members.

The Ransom Center is giving away a pair of tickets to an “All-Star Evening.” Email hrcgiveaway@gmail.com with “All-Star” in the subject line by midnight CST tonight to be entered in a drawing for complimentary admission for two. The winner will be notified by email.

Special thanks to these sponsors: Austin Beer Garden and Brewery, The Austin Wine Merchant, Blanton Museum of Art, Clickit Ticket, Dripping Springs Vodka, GoodPop, Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, Live Oak Brewing Company, Paramount Theatre, Peter Pan Mini Golf, RecSports, Round Rock Express, and JD Whittemore.

Curator discusses Norman Bel Geddes’s influence in video

By Ady Wetegrove

Donald Albrecht, exhibition organizer and curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York, discusses industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes’s influence on the American landscape. Albrecht—editor of Norman Bel Geddes Designs America (Abrams)—emphasizes the breadth of the Bel Geddes collection at the Ransom Center, which includes Bel Geddes’s plans and sketches of his futurist visions.

Ransom Center members receive discounted membership for Austin Film Society

By Christine Lee

Austin Film Society Discount

Membership to the Ransom Center just became more valuable! We are pleased to announce that Ransom Center members can now receive a $10 discount on a membership to the Austin Film Society (AFS). AFS promotes the appreciation of film and supports creative media production.  Combine a Ransom Center membership with a membership to AFS, and you’ll enjoy year-round access to film-related activities and events.

Become a member of the Ransom Center.

If you are already a member and want to receive a discounted membership to AFS, download and mail a membership form along with your payment or credit card information to AFS, 1901 E 51st, Austin, TX, 78723. Please write “Harry Ransom Center Member” at the top of the form and enclose a photocopy of your Ransom Center membership card. Alternatively, you can email a scanned copy or image of your Ransom Center membership card to membership@austinfilm.org. If you prefer to speak with someone about becoming a member of the Austin Film Society, please call 512-322-0145.

Cover of "Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects" by Tom Smith.
Cover of "Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects" by Tom Smith.

Upcoming Ransom Center Film Lecture

Join us on Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. for a lecture with special effects pioneer Tom Smith, who recently donated his archive to the Ransom Center. Smith discusses his work on films including Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. (1982), Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982), and Return of the Jedi (1983).

Members of the Ransom Center receive complimentary parking and priority entry at this Harry Ransom Lecture. Doors open at 6:20 p.m. for members and at 6:30 p.m. for the general public. Members must present their membership cards for priority entrance; one seat per membership card. Members arriving after 6:30 p.m. will join the general queue. Complimentary parking for members is available at the University Co-op garage at 23rd and San Antonio streets.

The event takes place in KLRU’s Studio 6A in Communication Center B.

Photo Friday

By Kelsey McKinney

Each Friday, the Ransom Center shares photos from throughout the week that highlight a range of activities and collection holdings. We hope you enjoy these photos that reveal some of the everyday happenings at the Center.

Undergraduate intern Michelle Bennight updates the inventory of paintings in the Ransom Center’s art collection, which included documenting works and confirming measurements and other information. Photo by Jennifer Tisdale.
Undergraduate intern Michelle Bennight updates the inventory of paintings in the Ransom Center’s art collection, which included documenting works and confirming measurements and other information. Photo by Jennifer Tisdale.
While visiting the Ransom Center on Tuesday, author T. C. Boyle signed the Center’s authors’ door. Photo by Pete Smith.
While visiting the Ransom Center on Tuesday, author T. C. Boyle signed the Center’s authors’ door. Photo by Pete Smith.
Visiting speaker, Shakespeare scholar, and Columbia University Professor James Shapiro views materials from the Ransom Center’s performing arts collection with Associate Curator for Performing Arts Helen Baer. Photo by Alicia Dietrich.
Visiting speaker, Shakespeare scholar, and Columbia University Professor James Shapiro views materials from the Ransom Center’s performing arts collection with Associate Curator for Performing Arts Helen Baer. Photo by Alicia Dietrich.

Thanks to “Kings & Creators” sponsors

By Christine Lee

The Harry Ransom Center extends a thank you to the many generous sponsors who are helping us turn Friday’s opening party, “Kings & Creators,” into an event of biblical proportions.

Tickets are still avilable for this opening celebration. Join online or purchase a membership and tickets at the door.

Enjoy wine provided by the Austin Wine Merchant and Vineyard Brands Inc., a signature “Merrymaker” cocktail courtesy of Dripping Springs Texas Vodka, and screenings of biblically inspired clips, from Pulp Fiction to Jesus Christ Superstar to Bob Marley’s “Exodus,” curated by local filmmaker Tommy Swenson of The Alamo Drafthouse.

Guests will also have the opportunity to create a custom bookmark or notecard with the calligraphers of Capitol City Scribes.

All royal guests will receive gift bags compliments of the Ransom Center, Austin Sugarworks, Dr. Kracker Texas Whole Grain Specialists, Kirkus Reviews, Texas Rain, and TOMMY’S! Foods.*

One lucky guest will also win a “King for a Day” prize. At the event, enter to win a stay at the Four Seasons, Austin; a five-course chef’s tasting dinner for two at Wink; gift certificate for movies and refreshments at Violet Crown ($50); four tickets to a Chanticleer choral performance from Texas Performing Arts; four tickets to Sherwood Forest Faire, and a downtown horse-drawn carriage ride compliments of Angeli Carriages

*While supplies last.

Photo Friday

By Kelsey McKinney

Each Friday, the Ransom Center shares photos from throughout the week that highlight a range of activities and collection holdings. We hope you enjoy these photos that reveal some of the everyday happenings at the Center.

Preparator Wyndell Faulk installs a video screen in the galleries for the upcoming exhibition “The King James Bible: Its History and Influence,” which opens February 28. Photo by Alicia Dietrich.
Preparator Wyndell Faulk installs a video screen in the galleries for the upcoming exhibition “The King James Bible: Its History and Influence,” which opens February 28. Photo by Alicia Dietrich.
Marianne Fulton, a consultant who will be contributing to a book on photographer Arnold Newman, orders photographs for the project. Photo by Kelsey McKinney.
Marianne Fulton, a consultant who will be contributing to a book on photographer Arnold Newman, orders photographs for the project. Photo by Kelsey McKinney.

Photo Friday

By Kelsey McKinney

Each Friday, the Ransom Center shares photos from throughout the week that highlight a range of activities and collection holdings. We hope you enjoy these photos that reveal some of the everyday happenings at the Center.

Exhibition Services staff members remove the ‘Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia’ display banner after the close of the exhibition.  Photo by Kelsey McKinney.
Exhibition Services staff members remove the ‘Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia’ display banner after the close of the exhibition. Photo by Kelsey McKinney.
Preparator Wyndell Faulk and Chief Preparator John Wright carefully remove from display Frida Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. Photo by Pete Smith.
Preparator Wyndell Faulk and Chief Preparator John Wright carefully remove from display Frida Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. Photo by Pete Smith.
The Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin interviewed University President William Powers Jr. at the Ransom Center about the school’s Powers Graduate Fellowship Program. Photo by Alicia Dietrich.
The Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin interviewed University President William Powers Jr. at the Ransom Center about the school’s Powers Graduate Fellowship Program. Photo by Alicia Dietrich.

Ransom Center Receiving Applications for Research Fellowships in the Humanities

By Jennifer Tisdale

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Moon on a Hazy Night, ca. 1887, color woodcut, Thomas Cranfill collection; Claude Bragdon, plate 30 from A Primer of Higher Space, 1939; Sir Edward Charles Blount and Gertrude Frances Jerningham Blount, Children motif, ca. 1870, collage of albumen prints, watercolor, pen & pencil in unpublished album, Gernsheim collection; Charlotte Brontë, manuscript of 'The Green Dwarf,' 1833, Brontë Family collection; Southeast Asian white parabaik (accordion book), Eastern Manuscripts collection.
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Moon on a Hazy Night, ca. 1887, color woodcut, Thomas Cranfill collection; Claude Bragdon, plate 30 from A Primer of Higher Space, 1939; Sir Edward Charles Blount and Gertrude Frances Jerningham Blount, Children motif, ca. 1870, collage of albumen prints, watercolor, pen & pencil in unpublished album, Gernsheim collection; Charlotte Brontë, manuscript of 'The Green Dwarf,' 1833, Brontë Family collection; Southeast Asian white parabaik (accordion book), Eastern Manuscripts collection.

The Ransom Center is now receiving applications for its 2012-2013 research fellowships in the humanities. More than 50 fellowships are awarded annually by the Center to support research projects in all areas of the humanities.

All applicants must demonstrate the need for substantial on-site use of the Center’s collections and, with the exception of those applying for dissertation fellowships, must be post-doctorates or independent scholars with a substantial record of publication.

Information about the fellowships and application process can be found online.

The stipends are funded by Ransom Center endowments and annual sponsors, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Research Fellowship Endowment, the Dorot Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Jewish Studies, the Robert De Niro Endowed Fund, the Carl H. Pforzheimer Endowment, the Woodward and Bernstein Endowment, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, and The University of Texas at Austin Office of Graduate Studies.

In the Galleries: "Love and Relationships"

By Christine Lee

Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

In one of Tennessee Williams’s early writings in which he interviews himself, he identifies his audience as “the wild at heart kept in cages.” He also notes that the play Battle of Angels is a prayer for “more tolerance and respect for the wild and lyric impulses that the human heart feels and so often is forced to repress in order to avoid social censure and worse.”

The human heart and its freedom becomes a theme in both of the current exhibitions, whether about the personal life and work of Tennessee Williams, as seen in Becoming Tennessee Williams, or in the characters and novels featured in Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century.

Williams’s draft of The Glass Menagerie, when it was still titled The Gentleman Caller, represents Williams’s personal and professional life. You see him working through what will become his iconic play, but you also see doodles and a dedication to his grandma Rose, who “perforated the lid of my own particular cubicle, thus preventing suffocation and allowing me to continue certain activities inside.” Another important Rose in his life was his sister, whose correspondence to her brother demonstrates their close bond. She writes: “The memory of your gentle, sleepy, sick body and face are such a comfort to me… if I die you will know that I miss you 24 hours a day.”

A more tempestuous relationship is brought to a close in an elegantly written letter from Williams to former lover Pancho Rodriguez. Williams writes: “One thing for which I don’t pity myself is the two years we spent together… You were you, wild, wonderful, a poem.” He caringly instructs Rodriguez to “keep faith with all the beautiful things in your heart… Walk tall, walk proud through this world.”

The exhibition demonstrates how film adaptations modified relationships in Williams’s written work. In Sweet Bird of Youth, the ending was changed to achieve a happy Hollywood resolution, and in A Streetcar Named Desire, the dialog about Blanche’s first love was heavily revised to appease the censors.

Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century reiterates the topic of love and relationships, specifically in writings by Tim O’Brien, Don DeLillo, and James Salter. In Tim O’Brien’s typescript from The Things They Carried for the chapter “Stockings,” love supersedes borders and war zones. Henry Dobbins uses his girlfriend’s pantyhose as a talisman, and we see O’Brien crafting the passage, crossing through lines and adding a large handwritten section of notes. The story ends with the girlfriend breaking up with Henry, but the power of the remembered love keeps him, and his fellow soldiers, going.

A strong marriage bond connects Jack Gladney and his current wife Babette in Don DeLillo’s White Noise. Gladney muses: “Sometimes I think our love is inexperienced. The question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures us of our innocence of the future. Simple things are doomed, or is that a superstition?” He continues: “Babette and I tell each other everything… turned our lives for each other’s thoughtful regard, turned them in the moonlight in our pale hands, spoken deep into the night… In these night recitations we create a space between things as we felt them at the time and as we speak them now.” DeLillo’s handwritten notes for the novel are featured in the exhibition.

James Salter’s novel The Light Years charts the trajectory of another marriage. At the start, the husband, Viri, “wants to enter the aura surrounding her [his wife], to be accepted… [but] soon after they were married, perhaps an hour after… the desperate, unbearable affection vanished, and in its place was a young woman of twenty condemned to live with him… the mistake she knew she would have to make was made at last… She had accepted the limitations of her life.” Later in the novel Nedra explains how impossible it is to live with her husband and summarizes it as “what turns you to powder, being ground between what you can’t do and what you must do. You just turn to dust.” The novel portrays what happens when one’s heart’s passion is not pursued, as Williams seems to warn against in his “prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages.”

The exhibitions are rich with original materials that give glimpses into human emotion, fictional and personal. Becoming Tennessee Williams and Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century are on view through July 31, 2011.