November 9, 2014 - March 22, 2015
Mike Disfarmer was a commercial portrait photographer in small-town Arkansas from 1915 to 1959 who secured his position as the local curiosity when he gave himself the surname "Disfarmer" after twenty-five years in business. Disfarmer sold inexpensive photographs to tourists, townspeople, and generations of farmers from nearby areas. Unknown during his lifetime, his portraits have since become widely celebrated. Becoming Disfarmer is a critical evaluation of Disfarmer's vernacular photographs, including approximately fifty examples of his skillful portraits on postcard-sized paper that once belonged to his patrons, as well as thirty posthumous enlargements made between 1976-2005. Alongside these works will be ephemeral materials supporting an examination of the ways in which Disfarmer's photographs have been received since his death. These materials include: newspaper clippings, historical journals, and audio edited from existing interviews with people who knew Disfarmer. The exhibition will be the first museum survey to consider the vintage prints alongside the enlargements, and also the ways in which Disfarmer's images have been revalued and recast. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, with essays by the curator and writers Gil Blank and Tanya Sheehan.
A press release for Becoming Disfarmer is available by clicking this link.
Read more about Becoming Disfarmer in The New York Times by clicking this link and by clicking this link.
Click on this link to hear excerpts from Julia Scully and Peter Miller's 1974-76 interview with Bess Utley; Elizabeth and Herschel Coley's 1976 interview with Mamie Barger; Julia Scully and Herschel Coley's 1976 interview with Loy Neighbors; and Toba Pato Tucker's 1989 interview with Thurmon Bailey. All interviews copyright the participants. Tucker interview courtesy Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library, Yale University. All other interviews courtesy Julia Scully and Dennis Mohr.
Becoming Disfarmer is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, and curated by Chelsea Spengemann, an independent scholar and Purchase College MA Program in Art History, Criticism, and Theory alum.
Generous support for Becoming Disfarmer has been provided by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and by ArtsWestchester, with suppport from the Westchester County Government.