Three Stories from Little America

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program

Artist: Vince Leo
December 20, 2002 – February 9, 2003
Minnesota Artists Gallery

Artist and writer Vince Leo remembered his America in an exhibition of nearly one hundred photographs of his family, which he made between 1975 and the present. His Three Stories from Little America illuminates three generations: from his Italian –immigrant grandmother, Anna, and his parents, Ernie and Glo, to “the kids” – Leo himself, his siblings and cousins, and their families. One might consider this collection of images an extraordinary and extensive documentary. For Leo, they represent a particularly American fairy tale.

Leo's 27-year project was largely a private one until he and his teenaged daughter, Grace, decided to archive his boxes and boxes of slides. After culling roughly 5,000 images, they selected four hundred images to make as proof prints. Through the process of looking, responding, sorting, and editing, Leo determined the structure and content of his exhibition. He selected ninety images for his “Three Stories,” a singular work with key subjects showing his Italian-American heritage, most notably the family's tomato gardens in various domestic scenes reminiscent of Miller's famous painting The Gleaners.

Leo's three stories ran like a continuous ribbon of images across the gallery walls, punctuated by three of his previously published texts. The first text recounted the vision of Jesus that informed Anna's decision to leave Italy for America (a story Leo heard many times during his childhood). The second was a daydream about a magical camera with a two-way lens that enabled Leo to see through things and to photograph God. The third, an excerpt from an essay written for Artpaper, articulated the difference between a country of origin and a country of dreams and Leo pledged his family's allegiance to the latter.


Leo's photographs were not nostalgic but seemed fresh and alive. He stated that he uses his camera to make significant connections that are important to his life experiences. It surprised him, however, that the camera can truly portray the essential presence of the subject and reflect familial relationships: that of artist, son, brother, grandson, husband, father, cousin, nephew. Three Stories from Little America made a compelling case for recognizing the energetic and emotional constellation of family as a living force.

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Related Events

  • Opening Reception: Thursday, December 19, 2002 in the Minnesota Artists Gallery.
  • Artist led tour: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Minnesota Artists Gallery.
  • Critics' Trialogue: January 23, 2003 in the Minnesota Artists Gallery. Featuring art critics Ann Klefstad and Rob Silberman.

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