PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston March 2021

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L aura Wilson is an iconic American p h o t o g r a p h e r with six books to date and two more upcoming, i n c l u d i n g o n e with rare Hollywood access due to her sons, actors Andrew, Luke, and Owen Wilson. She also has works in museum collections including the gold standard for photographers, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a duo of definitive exhibitions at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth. Her five-decade career was honed in 1979 as studio assistant to Richard Avedon for the making of the five-year museum portfolio In the American West, commissioned by the Amon Carter and now considered not only Avedon's magnum opus but one of the most important photography series in American art history. This experience jump-started Wilson on her life's work as a photographer with a gift for portraiture, realized in her books such as That Day: Pictures in the American West, Hutterites of Montana, Avedon at Work in the American West, and Watt Matthews of Lambshead. Now, following a museum retrospective and lifetime honor bestowed by the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum in Fort Worth, Wilson takes her work to Fayetteville. This month, Red & White Gallery presents 35 images from the museum exhibition "Laura Wilson: Looking West," an important series of limited-edition black-and-white and color prints shown online and available for acquisition. In an exclusive, we spoke to Wilson from her Dallas home and studio. On your Cowgirl Hall of Fame honor. Laura Wilson: First I was asked if I would like to have an exhibition. Then they asked if I would like to be considered as one of the inductees. And I said, "Well, I guess I would. I don't want to do the exhibition if I'm not going to be inducted [into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame]." And they said, "Don't worry about that." So, I agreed to have the exhibition. And it is a great honor — I mean, Georgia O'Keeffe and other people of great substance have been inducted. So I was awfully pleased to be considered, especially as I grew up in a small New England town. You can imagine, I'm the only person from my town ever to be inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. On your gift of relating to people. LW: That's a key thing for me as a photographer. I'm often surprised when people say, "How do you talk to people? How do you approach people?" Well, if you have to think, 'How am I going to approach this person,' you're already beginning in the ditch. On your lucky break. LW: My husband [Bob Wilson] had an advertising and graphic design firm. It was a small, very good firm, and one of his clients was the Amon Carter Museum; he had become very admiring and fond of Mitch Wilder, the director. So Bob called him and said, "Wouldn't it be great if we commissioned Richard Avedon to do a series of portraits of people in the American West." Mitch said, "Oh, that's a fantastic idea. Why don't you get in touch with him, see if he would do it." Dick [Avedon] had just had his exhibition at the Metropolitan, which was a big exhibition of his fashion work. He was on the cover of Newsweek, and everyone in the art world was talking about this exhibition of photographs. Bob thought it would be a wonderful way to bring attention from other parts of the country to the Amon Carter Museum. So, Bob called the Avedon studio and spoke directly to Dick. Dick said, "Come on up, and we'll talk about it." And I said, "But I'm the one who loves Richard and loves his work." And Bob said, "Well, all right, you can come, too." The three of us met with Richard Avedon. Then Dick came down to Fort Worth and met Mitch Wilder. They got along very well. Mitch agreed to fund a big and expensive project, and Dick said, "I need somebody to do research and give me guidance of where to go in Julie and Jason Alkire (Continued on page 82) Laura Wilson MATT LANKES 81

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