Mike Disfarmer: Portraits From Arkansas

Curated by: Denis Gautier

Mike Disfarmer, born Michael Meyer, documented the Depression era and wartime American rural life in Heber Springs, Arkansas. In a spare studio, using an unceremonious approach, Disfarmer created a body of portraits which are honest and unpretentious. In a time and place where few owned cameras and family was valued above all, Disfarmer captured the range of personalities living in Heber Springs. He shares their lives through images; young and old, women and men innocently wearing their pride and affections. Disfarmer's portraits of this rural community, reveal a shared bond rarely seen in contemporary society.

Taking his subjects as they presented themselves, and using a plain studio wall as his background, Mike Disfarmer made a wonderful, selfless record of a time, place and people that look something like the family values America that politicians keep fantasizing about. . . .the inclusion of many images not seen before settles the lingering issue of whether Disfarmer's talent depends on skillful post hoc editing. It doesn't: Disfarmer is the real thing, and no other rediscovered photographer of the last quarter-century--excepting E.J. Bellocq--comes close to equaling his naive genius.

—Andy Grundberg, New York Times Book Review

Works in the exhibition on loan from the Arkansas Arts Center.


Saturday, May 12, 2 pm | Lecture by Seattle curator, writer and professor Rod Slemmons on the work of Seydou Keita and Mike Disfarmer.



Poster for the exhibition "Portraits from Arkansas"
Poster for the exhibition "Portraits from Arkansas"
Photo by Mike Disfarmer, collection of Arkansas Art Center. (Cover of exhibition brochure)
Photo by Mike Disfarmer, collection of Arkansas Art Center. (Cover of exhibition brochure)

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