Homeward to the Prairie I Come: Gordon Parks Photographs from the Beach Museum of Art

This exhibition features photographs selected and donated by Parks to Kansas State University in 1973. Becoming a kind of self-portrait, the gift expresses wide-ranging artistic ideas beyond documentary photography.

Available 8-12 weeks

Exhibition Images

  • Gordon Parks Pool Hall

    Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, Pool Hall, 1950, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 8 3/8 x 12 in., Kansas State University, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, gift of Gordon Parks and the Gordon Parks Foundation, 2017.445. Image courtesy of and copyright by the Gordon Parks Foundation.

  • Gordon Parks Muhammad Ali

    Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, Muhammad Ali, 1966, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 21 x 17 in., Kansas State University, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, gift of Gordon Parks and the Gordon Parks Foundation, 2017.410. Image courtesy of and copyright by the Gordon Parks Foundation

  • Gordon Parks Fjord Norway

    Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, Fjord, Norway, 1968, printed 2017, chromogenic print, 16 x 21 in., Kansas State University, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, gift of Gordon Parks and the Gordon Parks Foundation, 2017.395. Image courtesy of and copyright by the Gordon Parks Foundation.

  • Gordon Parks Frisco Rail Station

    Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, Frisco Railway Station, 1950, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 18 x 12 1/4 in., Kansas State University, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, gift of Gordon Parks and the Gordon Parks Foundation, 2017.342. Image courtesy of and copyright by the Gordon Parks Foundation.

  • Gordon Parks Parish Priest

    Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks, Parish Priest (Father Placidus walks in a field of winter wheat with parishioner, Louis Huss), 1955, printed 2017, gelatin silver print, 15 1/4 x 21 in., Kansas State University, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, gift of Gordon Parks and the Gordon Parks Foundation, 2017.409. Image courtesy of and copyright by the Gordon Parks Foundation.

About the Exhibition

“Homeward to the prairie I come” is the first line of a poem that Kansas native Gordon Parks wrote in 1984. It was part of a commission from a local newspaper for a special insert to celebrate its centennial. Parks visited Manhattan, Kansas, in 1984 for the commission and returned in 1985 for a second residency. These activities exemplify the many relationships Parks forged in his home state during his career.

This exhibition features photographs selected and donated by Parks to Kansas State University in 1973 after he received an honorary doctorate degree there. The gift includes not only images from stories published in LIFE magazine, such as those of the da Silva and Fontenelle families, but also experimental ones, such as the multiple exposure The Stranger and Table in Snow, a study in subtle variations of white.

In addition, Parks created new narratives and thematic groups from such assignments as Paris fashions, Fort Scott Revisited, and Muhammad Ali to reflect his thoughts on photography as a fine art medium and his work vis à vis celebrated paintings and sculptures. As a result, the gift becomes a kind of self-portrait expressing Parks’s wide-ranging artistic ideas beyond documentary photography. Most significantly, the photographs instigate cultural change by challenging viewers to imagine a more inclusive culture than the one they know: a world where Black skin represents ideal beauty, where an African American athlete embodies the exemplary hero, and where an artist of African heritage has a place within the lineage of excellent artists in Western art history.

An open-access digital catalog accompanies this exhibition. The exhibition is available virtually at mkbma.org

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