Postcards from the Past
A new exhibition at the La Quinta Museum in California presents desert photography from Susie Keef Smith and her cousin.
Now on view at the La Quinta Museum in La Quinta, California, is Postcards From Mecca: The California Desert Photographs of Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves.
The exhibition, the first to showcase work by Susie Keef Smith, will feature photographs that were originally intended as postcards for a post office spinner rack. In the 1930s, Smith was the
postmaster in Mecca, California, on the north shore of the Salton Sea. She frequently ventured out around the area with her cousin, Lula Mae Graves, as they documented the last of the desert prospectors, burro teams, stagecoach roads and the construction of the Colorado River Aqueduct and the Allamerican Canal.
Smith’s body of work was nearly lost to history after a public administrator in charge of her estate dumped her photo albums into a trash bin. A savvy archaeologist jumped into the trash and rescued many of the images that will be shown in the exhibit.
Not only do the works show historical aspects of the Mecca area, many of the images add to the flavor of the West, including photographs that show a rattlesnake coiling around a dropped hat, watering holes with human skeletons, the aftermath of flash floods and a hammock strung between two palm trees.
Postcards from Mecca: The California Desert Photographs of Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves will be on view through May 1 at the La Quinta Museum. For more information visit www.californiadesertart.com or www.postcardsfrommecca.com.
Mr. Brant, the Cactus Candy Man of Mecca, appeared in this postcard called Trail Breakers of the West. Susie Keef Smith postcard. Warner Graves Collection.
Aqueduct surveyors Luis Perez and Erwin Nunley, 1930. Lula Mae Graves photograph. Warner Graves Collection.
Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves lounge in hammocks at Corn Springs, 1930. Warner Graves Collection.