Lincoln Highway Centennial: Wright Morris and America

June 25 – September 8, 2013 —

Wright Morris, one of America’s most admired novelists, was renowned for capturing – in both text and photograph – the iconic imagery of America’s heartland and the tone and tenor of the mid-20th century. In this exhibition, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway through the photographs taken by this nationally known Nebraskan of various locations from the east to the west coast along or near the famous route.

Morris, born in Central City, Nebraska and raised in towns throughout the state, was both a storyteller and image maker. As the author of over 20 novels, six collections of short fiction, and four volumes of autobiography, he became the voice of middle America with his modernists works. Two of his most famous novels, The Inhabitants and The Home Place, were photo-texts – a new genre created by Morris that combined written text with photographic imagery. Morris’ interest in photography began around the age of 24, after a post-college year-long trip throughout France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. After returning to the United States and marrying, he began to explore the photographic medium. Morris’ father was described as a “traveler” and “wanderer.” Morris himself went on a state-side “photo-safari,” traveling extensively in 1941 and 1942. He was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships for his photography in both 1942 and 1947. It was during this period that most of these images along the Lincoln Highway were taken, and a large group of photographs became the basis for The Inhabitants and The Home Place when Morris spent extended time in Nebraska, funded by his two fellowships.

In these photographs, we are able to see Morris’ self-described fascination with “ordinary objects.” As the artist states, “the thing-in-itself has my respect and admiration.” These objects and structures that Morris so carefully regarded through photography are often past their prime but carry with them memories and echoes of lives that were often painstakingly carved out of a land full of hope.