Bea Nettles

How many artists have you admired from afar? For much of my time at Minnesota Center for Photography I had in my mind that I wanted Bea Nettles to come and lecture, lead a workshop, run a program with Minnesota Center for Book Arts, meet with local artists, talk with students at MCAD, the UM, and CVA, etc. Colleen Mullins, our gallery director back then, and a fine book artist/photographer in her own right, was a big fan of Bea’s. I’d known her through her books, which advocate a very intuitive, organic, hands-on approach to creativity–a cross-disciplinary, craft-oriented approach that probably set her outside mainstream photography. Having produced a survey of alternative printing methods with a title like her 1977 Breaking the Rules: A Photo Media Cookbook, it was clear, at least to my Ivy-covered eyes, that Nettles was a kind of self-reliant, fashion-be-damned visionary and iconoclast.

Now, I read on her blog that the unique, original tarot deck she created in the early 1970s (with the artist herself posing as the Queen of Stars, above), the first photographically-illustrated tarot (with a Three of Swords image that was acquired by Bruce Springsteen for his album Magic–maybe Boss fans will recognize the shirt, below), has been acquired by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript library at Yale, where it joins extensive holdings by Stieglitz, Plowden, and other mainstream masters.
Wait long enough, and those you admire will show up in your own backyard, or at least help you reassess your alma mater.
Here’s Nettles’ note on her web site about the Mountain Dreams Tarot going to Yale, with links to 2 YouTube videos in which she speaks about the project (done “way, way before Photoshop”) and the tie to Springsteen.

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