Deborah Luster at the Mahalia Jackson Center

Mahalia Jackson Center
2405 Jackson Avenue
Early Childhood & Family Learning Foundation
Monday- Friday, 10am – 5 pm

This exhibition features Prospect artists who have developed work in and about Angola State Penitentiary, presented together with art by Angola prisoners. Symposium and community activities at the recently opened school and community center in Central City, organized in collaboration with the Innocence Project and Resurrection after Exoneration, are planned in conjuntion with the exhibition.

Deborah Luster

Deborah Luster has studied and documented folk-life in the Southeast for many years, often collaborating with poets and folk-artists.  In the late nineties, she began documenting the impact of poverty on the lives of people living in Northeast Louisiana and it was while on this assignment that she first came across small prisons in the area and began photographing inmates. 

It developed into an intense 3 ½ year project, where Luster was given entrance to the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women at St. Gabriel, the Transylvania East Carroll Parish Prison Farm and the Angola State Penitentiary. The resulting body of work and publication, One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, a collaboration with her longtime friend and poet, C.D. Wright, contains more than 1,000 photographs and takes its title from Terrence Malik: “Maybe all men got one big soul where everybody’s a part of—all faces of the same man: one big self”. It emphasizes the artists’ humanitarian approach and our link with the inmates and prison, not as “other”, but as part of us. “The perspective was that everyone is a whole person, not just the sum of their worst acts or even their best acts.”

For the project, Luster photographed the inmates against a black backdrop in straight, very formal portraits, letting them choose how they wanted to present themselves; sometimes dressing up, other times bringing work tools, objects of their making or pictures of loved ones. Cutting 5 x 4” aluminum and coating it with a liquid silver emulsion, Luster created the look of the tintype photos of the 19th c. that suggests the eternity of time as well as the intimacy of the family photograph.  The inmates received wallet-sized copies –paper prints, to send to their loved ones or cherish.
L.C.I.W.  from the “One Big Self” Series

Murder is not generally a subject in which most artists find themselves immersed. But twelve years ago, Deborah Luster’s mother was murdered, sparking this photographic project as a means of healing and understanding. 

Deborah Luster lives and works in New Orleans. She has exhibited in museums such as the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Houston Center for Photography.  She is the recipient of The Dorothea Lange—Paul Taylor Prize the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, The John Gutmann Award, The Bucksbaum Family Award for American Photography, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Her most recent series, Tooth for an Eye: A Choreography of Violence in Orleans Parish, which recently was shown at LSU in Baton Rouge, will be shown at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York in Spring 2011.

**See a story NPR featured on Deborah here:
Deborah Luster: The Power Of A Picture

E.C.P.P.F. 34, 1999    

Luster’s CV

Born: Bend, Oregon, 1951

Grants / Awards:
2002 John Guttman Award, San Francisco, CA
Anonymous Was a Woman, New York, NY
2001 Bucksbaum Family Award for American Photography, Friends of Photography,
San Francisco, CA
Dorothea Lange - Paul Taylor Prize, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke
University, Durham, NC
1994 Art Council of the Lower Cape Fear, Emerging Artist Grant
1993 North Carolina Arts Council, Visual Arts Project Grant
North Carolina Arts Council, Folklife Project Grant, with Michael Luster for
1992 “NC Photographers,” Meredith College
1991 Purchase Award, Mecklenburg Arts Council, The Light Factory

Permanent Collections:
Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH
Berg Collection, New York Public Library, NY
Kemper Museum, Kansas City, MO
Livingston College, Salisbury, NC
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Masur Museum, Monroe, LA
Mecklinburg Arts Council, Charlotte, NC
Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
National Archives, Washington, DC
Nations Bank Collection, Charlotte, NC
Julia J. Norrell Collection, Washington, DC
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

One-Person Exhibitions:
2005 “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” The Halsey Gallery, College of
Charleston, Charleston, SC
The Winthrop College Galleries, Rock Hill, SC
2004 “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY
“One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” San Francisco Museum of Art, San
Francisco, CA
2003 “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR
“One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” Arts in the Edge, Shreveport, LA
2002 “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” Faulkner Festival, Bassetti Gallery, New
Orleans, LA
“One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” The San Francisco Foundation, San
Francisco, CA
2001 “One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana,” Galveston Art Center, Galveston, TX
1999 “Come Shining: The Spiritual South,” The Light Factory, Charlotte, NC
1997 “Send it on Down,” Bellocq Gallery, Ruston, LA
1994 The Phoenix, Wilmington, NC
Big Room Gallery, Wilmington, NC
“Bi Locacion,” Oaxaca, Mexico
1993 The Playhouse Theater, Rocky Mount, NC
1992 “Remember Me: The Last of Beaufort’s Menhaden Fishery,” North Carolina
Maritime Museum, Beaufort, NC
Beaufort Fisheries, Beaufort, NC
Camera Cases Program, University of Arkansas

Group Exhibitions:
2005 “The Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Award Recipient’s Exhibition,” Center for
Documentary Studies, Duke University, Durham, NC
The 1708 Gallery, Richmond, VA
2004 “The Nature of Craft,” Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC [traveling through 2007]
“The Julia J. Norrell Collection,” The Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington, DC
2003 “The Louisiana Bicentennial Exhibition,” Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA
“The Eye-20 Group,” Masur Museum, Monroe, LA
“Southern Images - Six Contemporary Photographers,” Kathleen Ewing Gallery,
Washington, DC
“Masur Invitational,” Masur Museum, Monroe, LA
2002 “The Camera Obscured IV: Mixed Media Photography,” Catherine Edelman
Gallery, Chicago, IL
“Relevance of Making,” Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC
“Contemporary Alternative Photography,” White Room Gallery, Hollywood, CA
“A Day in the Life of Poverty Point,” Masur Museum, Monroe, LA
2001 “No Exit: Images of Imprisonment,” San Francisco Camerawork CA
“20th Anniversary Exhibition,” Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX
“Many Moons,” Hammond Museum, North Salem, NY
“The Crafted Image,” Boston University, Boston, MA
2000 “The Camera Obscured III: Mixed Media Photography,” Catherine Edelman
Gallery, Chicago, IL
“Visualizing the Blues,” Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN [through
“Trouble Shooting,” Hodges Taylor Gallery, Charlotte, NC
“Southern Vernacular Photography,” Webb Gallery, Waxahachie, TX
“A Journal of Influences: Friends and Mentors,” Eastern Shore Art Center,
Fairhope, AL
“Myth, Memory and Imagination, The Julia J. Norrell Collection,” McKissick
Museum, Columbia, SC [through 2003]
1999 “Carried to the Heart: Faith and Doubt in Contemporary Southern Art and
Literature,” Millsaps College, Jackson, MS
“Humidity,” Jackson Fine Arts, Atlanta, GA
“What Will You Miss,” Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
“Not for Profit,” Soho Photo, New York, NY
Photographs exhibited in group show, “Home Altars—Sacred Space in the
Domestic Realm,” John Michael Kohler Center, Sheboygan, WI
“Cultural Influences,” Penland Gallery, Penland, NC
1998 “The Camera Obscured II: Mixed Media Photography,” Catherine Edelman
Gallery, Chicago, IL
“When Tears Come Down Like Falling Rain: An Examination of the Peculiar in
Southern Art,” City Hall East, Atlanta, GA
“Merry Moor Winnett Photography Triennial,” Green Hill Center for NC Art,
Greensboro, NC
“Photographers and Poets Collaborating,” The Dean’s Gallery, School of the Arts,
University of Southwestern Louisiana
1997 “Animal Instincts,” Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL
“Come Shining,” Poets Theater, NY
“Fear Not Forever,” Winthrop University Gallery, Rock Hill, SC
“Dix Artists,” Festival International Invitational, Lafayette, LA
1996 “The American South: Contemporary Photography from 1966 - 1996,” Catherine
Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL
“Tangle of Complexes: Photographing in Mexico,” Birmingham, AL; Atlanta,
GA; Boulder, CO; Charlotte, NC
“New Southern Photography,” The Society for Contemporary Photography,
Kansas City, MO
“Water,” Photo Metro, San Francisco, CA
“Discoveries at the Meeting Place,” Fotofest, Houston, TX
“Blue Sky’s’s 20th Anniversary Show,” Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR1995
“Gallery Artists: Part I,” Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, IL
“William Greiner and Deborah Luster,” Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR
“North Carolina Photographers,” Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art,
Greensboro, NC
1994 “The Lost Roads Project: A Walk-In Book of Arkansas,” Bell Gallery, Brown
University, Providence, RI; Touring the State of Arkansas
“Send it on Down: Photographs of Keith Carter and Deborah Luster,” The Light
Factory, Charlotte, NC
Bi Locacion, Oaxaca, Mexico
1993 “Women and Angels,” Kristina Wasserman Gallery, Providence, RI
“Five Women Artists,” Center for Photographic Arts, Carmel, CA
1998: Photographer, “A Day in the Life of Poverty Point,” a project funded by the
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to accompany an Empowerment
Zone application, directed by Jeanie Rhoades
Visiting Artist, Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC
1994: Photographer and Creative Consultant for C.D. Wright’s “Lost Roads Project —
A Walk-in Book of Arkansas,” funded by a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest
Writers Fund Fellowship Grant
1993: Creative Consultant and Videographer for Carolyn DeMeritt’s video production
on the artistic collaboration of Kitty Couch and Pinky Bass, funded by a
North Carolina Visual Arts Project Grant 1992 and by a 1993 North
Carolina Visual Artistic Fellowship Grant
1988 - Today Co-Director, The Folklife Project
Photographer/Interviewer, folklife survey project, Carteret County, NC, funded by
North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts
Choreographed movement, audio, video for “Soul Bone Akimbo,” collaborative
performance piece for Mary Williford’s one-woman show, The Dance
Place, Washington, DC, 1988
1987: Photographer/Videographer, “That’s All Right! Afro-American Gospel in the
Texarkana Quadrangle,” a project funded by the Arkansas Arts Council
Photographer/Interviewer, Lincoln County Project, funded by Nevada Arts
1986: Artistic Consultant, Toe Jam & Fresh Jelly, Washington, DC
1983: Director/Performer, “Five Finger Hotel,” 16mm performance film,
Owner, Red Line Recording Studio, Fayetteville, AR
Member, Five Finger Hotel, performing mime group
1981: Producer/Director, independent film on artist Gloria Evans, Fayetteville, AR
1980: Co-owner, The Dance Center, Fayetteville, AR, 1980-1983
2003 One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana, Twin Palms Publishers, Santa Fe, NM. In
collaboration with C.D. Wright

1997 Festival of American Folklife, Smithsonian Institution
1996 Reckon: the Magazine of Southern Culture, Center for the Study of Southern
Culture, the University of Mississippi
1995 Every Substance Clothed, University of Georgia Press
1994 Five Finger Review, 13: Children of the Cold War, A Scrapbook. San Francisco,
The Lost Roads Project, University of Arkansas Press
Trench Town Rock, Kamu Brathwaite, Lost Roads
1993 Just Whistle, A Valentine, a collaboration with poet C.D. Wright, Kelsey Street
Press, San Francisco, CA
Book of Days, Dorosduro Press, Austin, TX
1987 A High and Glorious Place: Folklife in Eastern Nevada, Nevada Arts Council
Photographs for various folklife applications including: CBS’s “Sunday
Morning with Charles Kuralt;” The National Fisherman; Carnegie Hall’s
Folk Masters publication; In Context; Nevada Folklife, Help Me to Raise ‘em
(Global Village Music label); Southern Arts Federation, Deep South Musical
Roots Tour (Global Village Music label); Living Blues; NCArts

Co-Director and President, North Carolina Coastal Folklife Project, Inc.
Member, The Light Factory
Member, Society for Photographic Education

1990-92 Attended photography workshops with the following photographers: Larry Clark,
Larry Fink, Keith Carter, Christopher James, Craig Stevens, Pinky Bass,
Linda Connor, William Christenberry, Tillman Crane, George Tice,
Charles Harbutt
1989-90 Photography Program, Carteret Community College, Morehead City, NC
1977-79 Graduate writing courses, University of Arkansas
1970-76 University of Arkansas