Small Wonder: Worlds in a Box

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National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, 1996 - Photography, Artistic - 160 pages
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Greta Pratt returns to the county fairs of her childhood to present a vision of American Midwest communities largely unfamiliar to millions of urban dwellers. In this book she has created a visual anthology of fairgoers and fair participants of all shapes and sizes. For five summers, she traveled the Midwest chronicling the rural life of the region - parades of civic pride, displays of exemplary harvests, and heifers and swine groomed by the Future Farmers of America. The photographer's journey takes us to North Dakota, Minnesota, Tennessee, Kansas, Mississippi, among other states. She stops along the way at peculiar, yet somehow familiar, communities. In her introduction, Karal Ann Marling provides fascinating insights into Pratt's photos of county fair rituals and the regional culture that inspires these gatherings. She says: "They are home-made, do-it-yourself events, festivals of and by the towns and the counties from which they spring.... Along with old-timer reunions, centennials, and annual store-front festivals, fairs celebrate what it means to be an insider." Together Pratt and Marling transport the reader to a nostalgic yet contemporary custom, to a place where prize-winning hogs, tap-dancing children, flag-waving, and mouth-watering apple pie are once again American pastimes.

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Small wonder: worlds in a box

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In the general introduction to these first two books in the National Museum of American Art's new series, "American Scene," the series editor and series curator express a hope to "present the evolving ... Read full review

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