Walters’ photographs focus on her portraits of white women in the 1980s and 1990s, while the two newly-commissioned texts explore radically different, but profoundly compatible, responses to the artist, her work, and the history of her Mississippi River hometown.
The portraits of women, girls and families in Wood River Blue Pool were made in and around the artist’s hometown of Alton, and similar milieu stretching from Minnesota to Mississippi. Centered in the late 1980s and 1990s, but sprawling from 1984 to 2016, these astonishingly intimate and allegorically laden images attempt to “break through an ancient and nearly impenetrable surface of vanity and to seek out the small cracks, the holes and whorled places that hold our pain, our sadness and our beauty.” A remarkable essay by Laura Wexler places Walters’ photographs in dramatic dialogue with the history of racist violence that undergirds the social landscape of these subjects’ lives.
In June 2017, ITI Press sent writer Emma Kemp and Walters–who had never met–on assignment to Walters’ hometown, a place “with a history of extraction, a town defined by its water… a leaky town in which the cycle of swelling and breaching initiates structural deformations.” Mining newspaper records and bar-stool conversations, Kemp’s writing careens along a damaged trajectory of women’s lives lived along the margins of the Mississippi. Equal parts travelogue, true crime drama and artist’s portrait, Kemp’s riveting and genre-bending text reveals how, in Walters’ photographs, “time shoves itself backwards and forwards, a crooked tideline extending through each girl and woman.”