Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory


Hand colored photograph of a young girl looking at the camera. The background is a deep blue with shades of lighter color. The girl's face is serious.
Bea Nettles, Golden Evenin, 1975. Cyanotype with applied color. George Eastman Museum. Gift of the artist © Bea Nettles


Sepia colored photo of a woman looking wide-eyed at the camera. She has on a star crown over her long, flowing hair and a blouse covered in stars. She is the photographer, and this is a self portrait.
Bea Nettles, Star Lady, 1970. Gelatin silver print. George Eastman Museum. Gift of the artist © Bea Nettles


Image of a young girl (white, 5-6 years old) standing in front of a chalkboard. She wears a red dress and holds a deep pink string of paper hearts over her own heart across her body. She looks down at it, her brown, straight hair obscuring her face.
Bea Nettles, String of Hearts, 1984; from Rachel’s Holidays. Dye imbibition print. George Eastman Museum. Gift of the artist © Bea Nettles


Bea Nettles, The Skirted Garden, 1969. Gift of the artist. 2017-20-2.
Bea Nettles, The Skirted Garden, 1969. Gift of the artist. 2017-20-2.


Collage of black and white images that features (at center, top) the artist's head, bald from chemotherapy, surrounded on left, right, and beneath by images of geysers, alluding to explosive energy beneath a facade of emptiness
Bea Nettles, Hole, 2005; from Return Trip. Inkjet print. George Eastman Museum. Gift of the artist © Bea Nettles

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Grid of images of headstones taken in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Champaign, Illinois by artist Bea Nettles. The images were taken while she was an MFA student at the University of Illinois.
Bea Nettles, Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign, Illinois, 1969. Contact sheet. Courtesy of the artist.


On view
Nov 5, 2020 to Mar 6, 2021
Main Level, East Gallery

Bea Nettles explores the narrative potential of photography through constructed images often made with alternative photographic processes. The first large-scale retrospective of her fifty-year career, Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory demonstrates this celebrated artist’s experimental approaches to art-making.

Combining craft and photography, Nettles’s work makes use of wide-ranging tools and materials, including fabric and stitching, instamatic cameras, the book format, manually applied color, and hand‐coated photographic emulsions. Her imagery evokes metaphors that reference key stages in the lives of women, often with autobiographic undertones, and her key motifs draw upon mythology, family, motherhood, place, landscape, dreams, aging, and the passage of time.

Recognized for her innovations in mixed media photography, Nettles has taught photography and visual book-making since 1970, when she completed her MFA in the School of Art + Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she later taught from 1984 to 2008. Her alternative processes textbook Breaking the Rules: A Photo Media Cookbook has influenced generations of readers, and she has delivered lectures and workshops internationally. Her work is in museum collections throughout the United States and Canada, and her artists’ books can be found in special collections libraries, including significant holdings at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Illinois.

A 200+ page, fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Jamie M. Allen, George Eastman Museum; Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, former Director, The Sheldon Art Galleries; and Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Krannert Art Museum accompanies the exhibition.


See Art by Bea Nettles in the KAM Collection

Organized by the George Eastman Museum and the Sheldon Art Galleries. Co-curated by by Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, former Director, the Sheldon Art Galleries, St. Louis, Missouri; and Jamie Allen, Associate Curator, George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York

Curated at Krannert Art Museum by Amy L. Powell, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. At KAM, the exhibition is supported by the Rosann Gelvin Noel Fund. Co-sponsored by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Paid for in part by the Student Cultural Programming Fee.

decorative image shows swirling clouds over a deep blue sky. Text says "rest lab 2023" with details about the exhibition
  1. Jan 24, 2023 to Feb 11, 2023