Volume 75
Number 4










EM précis
Half Past Autumn
The art of Renaissance Man Gordon Parks at the Carlos

A SUN-DROWSY BOY lying in a lush summer field, the leash of his pet June bug stretching like a backyard clothesline from his forehead to his smudged little hand, greets visitors to a retrospective of the work of Gordon Parks at the Michael C. Carlos Museum. The luminous image is part of “Half Past Autumn: The Art of Gordon Parks,” an exhibition that assembles for the first time the artist’s work as photographer, filmmaker, novelist, poet, and composer.

“Boy with June Bug” is a stark contrast to the work for which the eighty-seven-year-old Parks is perhaps best known: the gritty and often shocking photos of poverty and racism taken during his twenty-year career at Life magazine–as, in fact, the magazine’s first African-American photographer. But Parks is a man of many talents. He also worked as a fashion photographer for Vogue, directed numerous documentaries and several popular films (including the detective film Shaft), published five books and several volumes of poetry, and composed a symphony, a ballet, and several sonatas and concertos.

Poems and quotations from Parks’ writings are mounted throughout the galleries next to the riveting visual images that intend, Parks says, to reveal people as they are: “human beings imprisoned within themselves.”

The exhibition, which closed at the Carlos April 30, has been organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., with funding from Ford Motor Company. From Emory, it will travel to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Oakland, Chicago, Memphis, Tacoma, and Rochester. For information on future venues, point your browser to <http://www.ford.com/> and search for “Gordon Parks.”

Portrait of Gordon Parks, 1997, © Johanna Fiore. All other photographs © Gordon Parks.

Kansas Land
I would miss this Kansas land that I was leaving.
Wide prairie filled of green and cornstalk;
        the flowering apple      
Tall elms and oaks bordering streams that gurgle,
Rivers rolling quiet in long summers of sleepy days
For fishing, for swimming, for catching crawdad beneath
        the rock.      
Cloud tufts billowing across the round blue sky.
Butterflies to chase through grass high as the chin.
Junebugs, swallowtails, red robin and bobolink,
Nights filled of soft laughter, fireflies and restless stars,
The winding sound of crickets rubbing dampness from their wings.
Silver September rain, orange-red-brown Octobers and
        white Decembers with hungry
Smells of hams and pork butts curing in the smokehouse.
Yes, all of this I would miss–along with the fear, hatred
          and violence      

We blacks had suffered upon this beautiful land.

—Gordon Parks



© 2000 Emory University