As photographer Wright Morris wrote in his novel World in the Attic: "It's hard to tell where nostalgia leaves off and nausea begins." Change is agony, aging is tough and we miss old things -- like the stuff in the bureau drawer -- more than we know.
Morris, a writer with a camera, is concerned with traces of time on objects and people. "Time Pieces," his intertwined photo-and-text study that takes nostalgia seriously, opened at the Corcoran Gallery this week.
He chronicles pre- and post-World War II America -- a 1947 Model-T with Nebraska plates, a Kansas grain elevator -- realistically and without sentimentality. Even the jukebox from southern Indiana seems a sober '50s artifact.
From the text accompanying a grainy black-and-white shot of an empty bed: "There are hotel beds that give us the feeling of a negative exposed numberless times, then there are beds with multiple impressions of a single missing tenant . . ."
Beneath a tired-looking jacket, sweater and engineer's cap hanging from homely hooks: "Clothes are worn until they shape to the wearer, then they are worn until they are shapeless . . ."
"Time Pieces," an eloquent survey, finds its most intimate expression in a bureau drawer -- "time's archive." This one is full of flashlights, a watch, a pen knife, a brush, family snapshots and after-meal powders. "In these snippets from the reel of time we find time's elusive presence, and sense that we love, beyond the telling of it, what vanishes." TIME PIECES: THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND WORDS OF WRIGHT MORRIS -- At the Corcoran Gallery of Art, through May 15.