The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 01, 2013

Transcending the mundane

Posted by Anne Tschida

Peggy Levison Nolan's "Untitled (glass)."

“Tales in the Ground Glass: Adventures of a Badass Grandma” is one of the best titles for an exhibit. Ever. The solo photography show at Dina Mitrani Gallery from Peggy Levison Nolan has a lot to say about a lot of things, but in very small snippets. Nolan is indeed a badass grandma, in the best way. She is a survivor, a fearless trouper with her camera, but her images are more like ground glass — fragile, reflective. What’s behind closed doors in a domestic setting can be quiet, solitary — and so revealing.

There is an incredible beauty in an unwashed glass, maybe once filled with beer, bathed in light from an unseen window. A used Kleenex left behind on an olive-green chair. A pink skirt laid out on a bed stripped of sheets. The images have a powerful feminine quality, in that they are domestic scenes; and they also are straightforward shots, unadorned, with no window dressing.

"Untitled (skirt)" "Untitled (skirt)."

Nolan didn’t really start photographing until later in life, while raising seven children in public housing — she is a badass survivor who kept her humanity, as is revealed over and over in her photographic series. She took her camera into homeless shelters and pointed it at women working in fields, and focused on her own children growing up. But what always is striking is the mundane, the seemingly simple shots of everyday life no mater where it is happening. They express so much with so little.

Now a teacher at FIU, Badass Grandma gives special homage in some work in this exhibit to her nine-year-old granddaughter. “I wanted Alice to know the world that she would live in with all its players, trick-or-treaters, pigeons flocking on sidewalks, the sunrise over dust in a kitchen, and her huge adoring family.” Simple, straight, soul-satisfying.

For the last week of her show, Nolan will give a talk on Wed., Nov. 6 at 7 p.m., and the gallery will be open until 9 p.m. on Thurs. Nov. 7 and (Second) Saturday, Nov. 9.

“Tales in the Ground Glass: Adventures of a Badass Grandma” runs through Nov. 9 at Dina Mitrani Gallery, 2620 N.W. 2nd Ave., Miami; 786-486-7248;


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