Matterful Art: Arnold Newman ‘One World/One People’ and Angelo Mantas ‘Epitaph/Roadside Memorials in America’

Ever since I opted-out of employment as a public school teacher to work at home while caring for my daughter, I’ve become increasingly aware of and very interested in the realms of private and public space, how people exist and interact in these often conflicting arenas, and how the lines separating the two blur.

Naturally, my curiosity was sparked when I learned that there would be an exhibit on roadside memorials at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art  in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I was pleased to find that there was also a small exhibit of some of Arnold Newman’s photographs in a neighboring gallery.

I felt I was imposing while looking at Mantas’ photograph of this memorial.


Here, Newman takes us into the home of Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister.


At first, I found it odd that an icon such as Newman would be paired with a photography teacher (albeit a talented one) from Chicago, but as I walked through each exhibit I realized that their work was somehow connected. Newman, the pioneer of environmental portraiture, became known for taking pictures of public figures in private places while Angelo Mantas photographs private memorials that are displayed in public places.

No stranger to publicity, Woody Allen posed for Newman where he does much of his writing, in bed.

woody in bed

Mantas’ juxtaposition of the cross and the car clearly shows a melding of private and public worlds.

Picture 4

I was somewhat bothered when looking at the roadside memorials, especially those that were adorned with personal mementos or private messages. I felt like I was encroaching on the privacy of the dead. However, I was drawn to many of Newman’s photos and found myself wanting to know more about the people in them. I guess I’m more comfortable peering into a public figure’s life because they have invited me to do so.

Posted by: Jen Mae


3 responses to “Matterful Art: Arnold Newman ‘One World/One People’ and Angelo Mantas ‘Epitaph/Roadside Memorials in America’

  1. i’ve always wondered about roadside memorials and how i or a family member might react in the event of a roadside death. would i erect a monument on the place where a love one was lost?

    is it because non-moving and rarely traversed earth/space is available to create this privately-grieved yet publicly-displayed ‘art’ that this has become a common phenomena? why does this act translate almost seamlessly to roadsides but not in other situations of death: at work, on a bus, on a sidewalk, at a ball game?

    i’m further intrigued by the idea that earth, or ground space, is involved; maybe it’s another way to lay a gravestone for the missing.

    the only other ways i’ve seen this is when a public figure of favor dies and their homes are littered in sentiment–but then we’re back in the realm of the celebrity.

    great post, jen mae.

  2. Roadside memorials are thought to have evolved from ‘descansos’ a tradition established in the Hispanic culture of the Southwest. When the people carrying the coffin from church to the funeral needed a rest, they would stop and create a small memorial to mark the break in their journey. I’m not entirely sure how this eventually translated to highway accident memorials.

    You bring up an interesting point about traffic. Other than the occasional road trip bathroom emergency or the unfortunate police stop, the land adjacent to our highways is rarely tread upon. Memorials have a better chance of surviving on the highway than in more traveled spaces.

    There is, however, a memorial movement for bicyclists who have died or been severely injured while cycling. It’s called Ghost Bikes. Check it out @ Have you ever seen one of those white bikes?

  3. just saw this posted by the national gallery of art in dc:

    a look into the arts of privacy.

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