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Bea Nettles

Bea Nettles
Harvest of Memory

A survey of ground-breaking mixed-media photography, spanning a half century of innovative perspectives that push the boundaries of how we define photography.

George Eastman Museum
October 2019
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272 pages | 10.5 x 9.5 | 196 color photos, 92 b&w photos |

From her hand-colored, machine-stitched photographic prints to her artist’s books and well-known Mountain Dream Tarot card deck (the first-known photographic treatment of the tarot) Bea Nettles’s work has always upended tradition. Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory presents the span of her art across half a century, in conjunction with an exhibition co-organized by the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, and the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, Missouri.

Recognized for her innovations in mixed-media photography, Nettles used alternative photographic processes that produced textured works, with subjects including self-portraits; investigations of the body and its relationship to nature and landscape; and the experience of mothering, loss, and aging. A tremendously productive artist, Nettles has received critical acclaim, and her work has become part of museum permanent collections from coast to coast. Now, for the first time in her fifty-year career, Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory offers a large-scale retrospective of an artist who profoundly illuminates our inner worlds.

  • Foreword (Bruce Barnes)
  • Preface (Olivia Lahs-Gonzales)
  • Acknowledgments
  • Part I. Essays
    • Overcoming Constraints (Jamie M. Allen)
    • Bea Nettles: Artist/Mother (Olivia Lahs-Gonzales)
    • Photographic Objects/Institutional Artifacts: Bea Nettles in Context (Amy L. Powell)
  • Part II. Plates and Texts
    • Opening Statement (Bea Nettles)
    • Plates: 1968–1975
    • Mountain Dream Tarot (Bea Nettles)
    • Plates: 1975–1992
    • Complexities (Bea Nettles)
    • Plates 1995–2011
    • Gravestone Poetry (Bea Nettles)
    • Plates: 2011–2015
    • Closing Statement: (Bea Nettles)
  • Selected Chronology (Jamie M. Allen with Bea Nettles)
  • Selected Bibliography (Jamie M. Allen)
  • About the Contributors
  • Photography Credits
  • Index

Bea Nettles began her international exhibition career in 1970 with Photography Into Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. She received two National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowships, and taught for thirty years at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Jamie M. Allen is the Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at the George Eastman Museum.

Olivia Lahs-Gonzales is the director of the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, Missouri.

Amy L. Powell is the curator of modern and contemporary art at Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Founded in 1947 and located in Rochester, New York, the George Eastman Museum is the world's oldest photography museum and one of the earliest film archives, with major collections in photography and cinema and related technologies as well as photography books.


“There is a kind of magic in Nettles’s work, as though she isn’t recording reality in her images but creating it. This feels true of her process as well—its unique combination of chance and manual manipulation. The focus of much photography is the outside world; Nettles turns the camera on her interior life, producing images that are reflective and representative of her memories as well as of her feelings.”
New York Review of Books

“A gorgeous, massive new monograph.”
Nashville Scene

“In our age of ubiquitous selfies and 'mixed media' it is refreshing to review the work of an artist who is truly a pioneer in the area of visual self-evaluation with artistic purposes. With a strong background in painting, a fearless approach to self-assessment, and a love of language, Bea Nettles is a shining example for effectively integrating photography, especially alternative processes, with other modes of visual and verbal expression...Highly recommended!”
PhotoBook Journal

“[Nettles'] work engages with a core series of ideas through multiple, innovative approaches. I am struck by the depth of emotion, and her willingness to share her own story and experiences so candidly and powerfully, in her work...This exhibition, catalog, and new scholarship reaffirm her position within the history of art and photography as an essential, influential, and powerful artist.”
Strange Fire Collective

“The gorgeous catalogue accompanying this current well-deserved and long-overdue comprehensive retrospective of her dizzyingly diverse work...goes a long way to serving as an ideal introduction of the public to this larger-than-life yet almost invisible presence on the cultural scene...Bea Nettles has proven herself to be not only a long-distance runner and survivor but also an exemplary exponent of that most alluring of contemporary art mandates: the re-enchantment of everyday life.”
Critics At Large