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Exhibition Examines Humans’ Passion for Shelter

Sept. 13, 2018 — Along with water, food, and clothing, shelter is one of our most basic needs. And photographer Sandra Matthews says this need runs deep. “Upon leaving the protection and confinement of the womb, we humans continually seek shelter — constructing spaces that enclose us and separate us from the perils of the larger world,” she says.

Matthews’ photographs on this theme are featured in “Making Oneself at Home,” the first fall exhibition in the Gallery at the Rhodes Arts Center. The show will be on display Sept. 14–Oct. 21, with an opening reception in the gallery at 6:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 14.

Her focus is not on the houses we inhabit, but on how we keep replicating those shapes in miniature. Her photos are of backyard sheds, boat coverings, abandoned shacks, a concrete teepee, ice-fishing tents, a one-room schoolhouse, and other pint-sized structures. Two images — an early-American baby’s bed and a wooden coffin — take the viewer literally from cradle to grave. Matthews says these “‘model homes’ suggest our ever-present desire for security and our vulnerability.”

Some images may be familiar to viewers, since all were shot in towns and rural areas of Massachusetts.

Matthews is also a writer, which she says grew out of her interest in photography’s cultural power. She was the founding editor of the Trans Asia Photography Review, and is a Hampshire College associate professor emerita. Her work can be seen in major collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Fogg Art Gallery at Harvard. Locally, her photos are exhibited in the museums at Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College.

The Rhodes Arts Center gallery is open 10 am to 7 pm on weekdays and 1 to 5 pm on weekends. —By Emily Weir