As an artist-mother-educator, Bea Nettles has investigated universal themes such as family, childhood, and aging throughout her fifty-year career. These concepts are brought to light in the retrospective exhibition Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory, currently on view in the main galleries. The Eastman Museum will host a multigenerational panel discussion with Nettles, Rania Matar, and Jessica Todd Harper. Nettles, Matar, and Harper will discuss how family life, motherhood, and self-exploration have played a role in their bodies of work. Additionally, the panelists will address the impact of being working artists and educators on their individual careers. The discussion will be led by Jamie M. Allen, the Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Associate Curator, Department of Photography.
Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory is co‑organized by the George Eastman Museum and the Sheldon Art Galleries, St. Louis, and generously supported by the Rubens Family Foundation and Susan and Nathan Robfogel, and made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
About the Panelists
Bea Nettles (American, b. 1946) completed her graduate studies in the late 1960s, surrounded by male faculty members who relished traditional black-and-white photographic printing techniques. She incorporated hand-coloring, stitching, and collage into her nontraditional landscapes and self-portraits inspired by mythology, and she found herself locked out of the darkroom at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). As she began her photographic career in the early 1970s, she was the sole woman among the thirteen photographers in the first exhibition at LIGHT Gallery in New York. In 1980, Nettles joined the faculty at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)—and was only one of two women among the fifty faculty members in the photography program. Nettles consistently pushed forward despite these factors. Her work was included in the landmark exhibition Photography into Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970, and that same year she had her first solo exhibition, at the George Eastman Museum. Along with teaching countless workshops, Nettles has held positions at Nazareth College, Visual Studies Workshop, the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, RIT, and UIUC, where she established the undergraduate photography program and taught for 24 years. Balancing her roles of artist, mother, and educator, Nettles found new paths of creativity as she battled time constraints and limited access to darkroom spaces or specific printing materials.
Rania Matar (American, b. Lebanon, b. 1964) is a photographer who investigates cross-cultural personal and collective identity through photographs of female adolescence and womanhood. She is currently associate professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and regularly conducts workshops and gives talks. Matar is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and has published three books, L’Enfant-Femme (2016), A Girl and Her Room (2012), and Ordinary Lives (2009).
Jessica Todd Harper (American, b. 1975) is a photographer who records intimate landscapes of family life in beautifully lit photographs akin to paintings by Mary Cassatt or John Singer Sargent. She has taught at Swarthmore College and Haverford College in Pennsylvania and at the International Center for Photography in New York. A graduate of RIT and Bryn Mawr College, Harper has published two books, The Home Stage (2014) and Interior Exposure (2008).