Post­cards from the Past

A new ex­hi­bi­tion at the La Quinta Mu­seum in Cal­i­for­nia presents desert photograph­y from Susie Keef Smith and her cousin.

Western Art Collector - - WESTERN ART NEWS -

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.

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