Art has returned to the gallery at the Argenta Branch Library in North Little Rock.
"Humankind," a photography exhibit featuring work by members of the Blue-Eyed Knocker Photo Club of Little Rock, opens Friday. It's the first show in the space since the pandemic forced the gallery to close in March 2020 and includes 69 photographs, mostly black and white, that roughly document the span of a human life.
Enter the gallery, start from the left and make your way around the space clockwise to best experience the show, which features exceptionally strong work ranging from tender to profound in settings that include the Arkansas State Fair, Rome's Piazza Navona, kitchens, bedrooms, Little Rock streets, a backyard swing and the banks of the Little Red River.
There is Cindy Adams' image of a pregnant woman's spider tattoo, Brandon Markin's powerful shot of a young high school graduate in front of a mural of George Floyd and Susan Crisp's somber scene from a funeral.
Other photographers include Adams Pryor, Casey Sanders, Adrienne Taylor, Darrell Adams, Gail Arnold, James Allen, Jon Hodges, Lily Ryall, Matt Weber, Rachel Worthen, Nancy Nolan, Rita Henry and Vince Griffin.
Most are from Arkansas, says club founder Rita Henry, though Weber is from New York and is a mentor of sorts to the club. One of his works is an unsettling image from Sept. 11, 2001, that shows a woman with two young children as the top of the World Trade Center burns in the background.
The exhibit was inspired by "The Family of Man," the landmark 1955 photography exhibition curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that included 503 photos from 69 countries. The book of the same name that collected photographs from the exhibit has sold millions of copies.
Members of the Little Rock photo club submitted their work to Kathy Strause, chair of the art department at Henderson State University, and Brooks Gibson Wolfe, a former photo editor and art curator-consultant, who chose a few from each for the show.
Worthen submitted contemporary photos taken by her and also older images from her family's collection.
"I have pictures from the nineteen-teens that I did not take — they're family pictures from Scott, Arkansas — to my most recent, which is from 2018," she says last week right after the framed photos were hung in the gallery. "There was no assignment. You could go out and take pictures if you wanted to, or you could use what you already had."
One of Taylor's images is a tender image from 2000 of a young boy, the son of club member Nolan, leaning over a fence, transfixed as soap bubbles float by.
"It's so wonderful," she says of the exhibit. "When Rita decided to do this, I pulled my copy of the book out and revisited it. I just love the idea of this, especially now with life so crazy. I think this is essential for us to remember who we are as human beings."
Hodges' images capture the poignancy of daily life with his wife and young sons.
"I'm proud of the show," he says. "Looking at what is on the wall, it all works really interestingly together ... I think a lot of people can see themselves in the photographs."
The 1955 MoMa exhibit included quotes from the Bible, William Blake, American Indian proverbs, the Bhagavad-Gita, Anne Frank, African folk sayings and more. In keeping with that spirit, "Humankind" features quotes from poets Susan Munden-Allen, John Robert Gibson and Lyndel Colglazier.
Henry has been planning the exhibit for about three years, and had been working with gallery coordinator Meikel S. Church since the beginning. It was supposed to go up in 2020, but the pandemic prevented that.
"I had to keep everyone interested over a long period," Henry says. "Every six months, it was like, 'we'll all be better soon.' The date kept moving and moving. We're amazed and happy that it is finally up."
- Location: Argenta Branch Library, 420 Main St., North Little Rock
- Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Sept. 10.
- Admission: Free