Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings isn’t just a glorious smattering of the artist’s photographs. The exhibition brims with tension between Sally Mann’s identity and a landscape tainted with racist history.
As a white woman who grew up in the American South, Mann’s representation of history and memory is loaded and heavy with complications. Most of the photographs on display in A Thousand Crossings – on view at the Getty Center until February 10, 2019 – are about memory and history: a cluster of domestic photographs of her children exploring the Virginia wilderness on vacation is juxtaposed with numerous images of Civil War battlefields, of Southern rivers and streams, of the Black woman who helped raise her, and the Black men she never noticed in her segregated community as a child. The sense of mystery and wonder she conjures in images of Civil War battlefields – and the swampy river beds where enslaved people found refuge and escape – is challenged by the inherent nature of these locations as sites and reminders of the horrific system of American chattel slavery.
Exhibition review by Deborah Krieger