Grave Images: San Luis Valley | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/grave-images-san-luis-valley[12/8/2015 12:40:30 PM] Home Grave Images: San Luis ValleyGrave Images: San Luis ValleySubmitted by jainlayconley on 8-27-2010 02:53 PMAuthor: Kathy T. Hettinga Publishing: Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2009. 180 pages. Color photos, appendices, bibliography. 10 x 11. $45.00 hardcover. Reviewer: Dana EchoHawk Reviewer Affiliation: Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library Sitting down for a quick review of Grave Images: San Luis Valley I found I had opened the cover of a book that proved to be incredibly more intriguing than I had anticipated. I thought I was delving into a coffee table book containing rich and interesting photographs of cemeteries in the San Luis Valley. My own experience of seeing many back roads and corners of the Valley through a camera lens made me eager to view and study the images of a fellow photographerespecially this particular book because it covered another of my great interests, cemeteries. But I had a surprise. The depth of narrative lifted this book out of the status of coffee table book into one of a valued resource on the San Luis Valley. Within the first pages, Kathy Hettinga tells a personal story about a farming accident that tragically caused the death of her young husband, Duane William Tolsma. As she grieved, her own life stretched ahead of her. The beauty of the Valley and its extraordinary light folded around her, calling her back year after year. This began a fifteen-year trek as Hettinga wandered through small towns, up gullies and over desert lands to explore cemeteries that revealed stories and significance on the topic of mortality. With a camera as her tool, she documented the ways people make sense of death and life. Fragile folk art is at the core of her visual images, but the romantic and sacred meanings are the invisible messages portrayed through the pages of Grave Images Near the beginning, a brief geological history of the Valley is accompanied by landscape photographs such as fields at the base of Mount Blanca and sunlit feathery seeds of clematis vines growing on a fence row. Both text and images in this chapter create an accurate vision of the remoteness, beauty, and isolation of the land these cemeteries occupy. Although our society today is extremely mobile, the terrain of the Valley was, and continues to be, home for people who maintain remembrance and connection to the land. Hettinga acknowledges this in her artistic photographic compositions. Grave markers of metal and stone are viewed with sagebrush stretching behind to infinity, or perhaps with a glimpse of Ute Mountain seen in the distance. Her work visually implies there is an integral balance between the fragile grave markers she photographs and the landscapes they were placed in. Folsom man, Taos Pueblo Indians, and Spaniards were all familiar with the Valley. But residents remembered only by names carved in concrete or scratched on wood, are central to Hettingas images. The role of societies, women, and couples and children, as may be ascertained by the grave markers, are examined in her narrative. Her review of religion and churches is complemented with thoughtful discussion EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanCasimiro Barela, state senator for over 37 years, fought to ensure Colorados first constitution was published in English, Spanish and German.
Grave Images: San Luis Valley | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/grave-images-san-luis-valley[12/8/2015 12:40:30 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us of faith, hope, and endurance. She writes, Walking in these cemeteries is a rich, aesthetic experience. The grave images speak about the spiritual dimension of existence, and about the tenacious faith of the people who created them. In this way they bear witness to those of us who are here now to visually hear (114). As her statement indicates, we visually hear. Her images portray the visual art and materials chosen, and when contemplating their meaning, it is possible to hear the etched words and phrases. Through photographs and narrative combined, the reader may gain an enhanced understanding of the Valley that embraces social and personal predicaments, misery, happiness or the contentment experienced by its people. Grave Images was almost a coffee table book, but is much more. Hettinga writes, The grave images of the San Luis Valley serve as a reminder, as well as a warning. The cemeteries are a memento mori a vivid reminder of mortality (157). By merging personal narrative with cultural history and photography, Kathy Hettinga achieves her goal of visually documenting the way people make sense of death and life. The abundant photographs depict history without actually being historic photographs. My only recommendation is to have included dates as a reference point with the photographs. As Hettinga states, I have recently discovered that several grave images are now inexplicably and completely gone without a trace (161). However, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history, folk art, cemeteries, people, or culture and heritage of the San Luis Valley. Reviewer Info: Dana EchoHawk is a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, focusing on public history, historic preservation, and heritage tourism. She has an undergraduate degree in journalism from Metropolitan State College of Denver. In 2010 she received the Ward Family Prize in Public History. EchoHawk is currently a King Fellow at the Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library where she serves as the project manager for Latinos in Colorado: Research Sources and Research Strategies (2009 2010) and the Native American History in Colorado Initiative (2010). Add new comment