Friday, October 17, 2008

Display Case 10 (Lange)

  Two covers that reference the FSA work of Dorothea Lange:

  Lange's Tractored Out, Texas 1938 is probably second only to her Migrant Mother in recognizability. An image whose visual potency has burned itself into our collective visual memory bank; it now serves as a cultural cipher with many imitators. For Bobby Louise Hawkins' book of poems, Back to Texas, it has been rendered quite accurately as a drawing, wrapping around the books front and back covers.

Title: Back To Texas

Author: Bobbie Louise Hawkins

Publisher: Bear Hug Books 1977

Designer / Illustrator: Not listed

  Eudora Welty wrote about the American South, the place where she was born and lived most of her ninety-two years. The cover artwork for Thirteen Stories is an appropriate, if somewhat generic, reference to the simplicity and old-fashioned gentility which exists in many stereotypes of that region, along with, perhaps, a suggestion of menace in the driver's expression. Compare John Alcorn's cover drawing to Dorothea Lange's Ditched, Stalled and Stranded, made in California's San Joaquin Valley in 1935. One can have little doubt but that Lange's photograph is the source. The filthy clothing and torn interior upholstery have been cleaned up, and the drivers hat and face have been replaced. This is as it should be: In Lange's image, the man sits limp-jawed and glassy-eyed; stunned, as if he is trying to recover from a knockout punch, which, in effect, he is. That is the strength of Lange's vision, but it would be far too powerful, and far too specific, for this book's cover.

Title: Thirteen Stories

Author: Eudora Welty

Publisher: Harvest/HBJ [Harcourt Brace Jovanovich] 1965

Designer / Illustrator: John Alcorn

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