Debbie Grossman

Jean Norris and wife Virginia Norris, homesteaders and town founders
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
Work in Exhibition:

Jean Norris and wife Virginia Norris, homesteaders and town founders
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
(Close-up)

Ruth Leonard secures a calf in her pasture
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
(First image from left in gallery view)

Nell Leathers, homesteader, shooting hawks which have been carrying away her chickens
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
(Second image from left in gallery view)

Jean Norris and wife Virginia Norris, homesteaders and town founders
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
(Third image from the left in gallery view)

Ann Hesse, homesteader
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
(Fouth image from the left in gallery view)

Jessie Evans-Whinery, homesteader, with her wife Edith Evans-Whinery and their baby
Archival inkjet print
14 x 10.5”
2010
Edition 2 of 15
(Fifth image from the left in gallery view)

Artist's Statement

In 1940, Russell Lee wrote to his boss at the Farm Security Administration, Roy Stryker, and asked for permission to spend a few weeks shooting Pie Town, New Mexico, a small settlement of homesteaders near the western edge of the state. Lee wanted to photograph there because he felt the Pie Town community represented a kind of hardy, small town community life that was disappearing in America. His pictures of the town are tinged by his mythologizing of a difficult way of life, and the land-conquering kind of patriotism that's a foundation of the American myth.

I share Lee's nostalgia. Seventy years later, I lament the same loss of community and am drawn to a similar utopian ideal. I'm filled with a longing to connect with that time and that way of life. I fantasize about locating myself within those pictures and that time, but that's where I get stuck. As a modern, queer woman, I can't place myself into his pictures. So instead, I make them over to match my fantasy.

In this work, I have taken Lee's beautifully-photographed body of images and reimagined, revised, and reconstructed them using Photoshop. My Pie Town archive resembles Lee's with an important difference – in My Pie Town, the rag-tag community of homesteaders is populated exclusively by queer women. It is a group of pictures that imagines what if: What if there had been a town full of lesbians out West in 1940? What if same-sex female couples back then had made families that look the ways same-sex partnerships and marriages do now? What if we lived in a world where pictures of samesex families were a part of our cultural and American history? Using Photoshop, I have imposed my particular desire onto history, bending it to graft a modern idea of sexuality onto a time where it hardly existed and when it did, was rarely pictured.

- Debbie Grossman