• Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    ​Photo: Bruce Mathews

    Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    ​Photo: Bruce Mathews

  • Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    ​Photo: Bruce Mathews

    Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    ​Photo: Bruce Mathews

  • Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    Photo: Bruce Mathews

    Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    Photo: Bruce Mathews

  • Laura McPhee
    Fourth of July Creek Ranch, Custer County, Idaho, July 8, 2004, 2004
    chromogenic print
    72 x 96 inches
    Collection of Alturas Foundation and courtesy of Carroll and Sons, Boston
    Photo: courtesy of the artist.

    Laura McPhee
    Fourth of July Creek Ranch, Custer County, Idaho, July 8, 2004, 2004
    chromogenic print
    72 x 96 inches
    Collection of Alturas Foundation and courtesy of Carroll and Sons, Boston
    Photo: courtesy of the artist.

  • Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    ​Photo: Bruce Mathews

    Installation view from Laura McPhee: River of No Return in the Charlotte and Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
    ​Photo: Bruce Mathews

  • Laura McPhee
    Mattie with a Northern Red-Shafted Flicker, Laverty Ranch, Idaho, May, 2005
    chromogenic print
    96 x 72 inches
    Collection of Alturas Foundation and courtesy of Carroll and Sons, Boston
    Photo: courtesy of the artist.

    Laura McPhee
    Mattie with a Northern Red-Shafted Flicker, Laverty Ranch, Idaho, May, 2005
    chromogenic print
    96 x 72 inches
    Collection of Alturas Foundation and courtesy of Carroll and Sons, Boston
    Photo: courtesy of the artist.

  • Laura McPhee
    Aspens Carved by Sheep Herders, Fisher Creek, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho, Summer Solstice, 2003
    chromogenic print
    72 x 96 inches
    Collection of Alturas Foundation and courtesy of Carroll and Sons, Boston
    Photo: courtesy of the artist.

    Laura McPhee
    Aspens Carved by Sheep Herders, Fisher Creek, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho, Summer Solstice, 2003
    chromogenic print
    72 x 96 inches
    Collection of Alturas Foundation and courtesy of Carroll and Sons, Boston
    Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Laura McPhee: The River of No Return

Friday, May 17, 2013 to Sunday, September 22, 2013
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

A journey across geographic place, art historical precedents, and the very history of photographic image making find a dynamic relationship in The River of No Return, a series created by Laura McPhee over a multiyear residency in the Sawtooth Valley in central Idaho, supported by the Alturas Foundation. What at first glance appear to be bucolic scenes of a pristine world become on closer inspection images of a landscape that at every turn has felt and recorded the impact of human habitation. This insistent narrative of relational dynamics includes evidence of Native populations and European immigrants, ranchers and migrant workers, those who live off the land and those who use it for recreation, and species of mammals and fish both native and reintroduced.

As McPhee states about these images, “you feel the past and present in one place.” This view of time is imbedded in her lush, large-scale photographs, which are decidedly pre-digital, created using an antique Deardorff 8x10 camera and soon-to-vanish Kodak film and chemical processing. How we view and understand the content and meaning of these images, and negotiate the tension between the Romantic and the Documentary, will depend on where we start the journey of looking. Our personal experiences create the final and lasting dynamic of this exhibition—between the viewer and the artist. What we see, hear, feel, intuit, recall, and long for will be a highly personal journey. Enveloped by the sheer scale and beauty of these photographs, we become part of the history of a time and place that is very much our own, both familiar and mysterious.

Support for this exhibition was provided by Alturas Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to the visual arts and American culture.