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Return to Route 66: Photographs from the Mother Road

by Shellee Graham 


(above: Route 66 - Big Boy, Photographed and compiled by Shellee Graham)


The Muscatine Art Center is proud to present Return to Route 66: Photographs from the Mother Road by Shellee Graham scheduled to open June 6 and run through July 25, 2004.

It began in the early 1920s with a vision of a paved highway that would connect Chicago to Los Angeles and the west. By the time of its completion, the road would cover over 2,400 miles, three time zones, and eight states. It would link the windy shores of Lake Michigan with the water of the Pacific Ocean -- a two-lane road rolling through the great American Southwest, tying the vestiges of America's pioneer passages into one meandering and magnificent highway.
Route 66. It was the road of dreamers and ramblers, drifters and writers: the road of John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie, and Jack Kerouac. A ribbon of American highway that transported the Okies, driven from their land as storms of dust swept across their farms, to the promise of California. It was also the highway of commerce-of automated ice cream stands and old "no-tell" motels, salty truck stops, and a neon allure that beckoned to travelers: buy this, eat this, try this.  Phillips 66, Coca-Cola, Burma Shave. It was Bobby Troup's "Get Your Kicks of Route 66," a song that became a state of mind, with hundreds of miles of road behind and many thousands more to go. Right: Route 66 - Club Cafe, Photographed and compiled by Shellee Graham)
The lights and the breeze and the radio and the litany of towns: Joplin, Amarillo, Tucumcari, Albuquerque, Gallup, Flagstaff, San Bernardino. A smilin', "Hi - how' re - y'all - doin' - t'night" big-boned waitress and a steamin' cup of coffee. Route 66, the passage west, the road of flight, the Mother Road.
A neon journey, a lighted drive, and a passageway of memory down a road that shaped history, Route 66 is, above all, a song of America that testifies to where we have been and what remains of our past. It shows us the secret corners and hidden towns we still might find if we merely exit the interstate, roll down the windows, and, with the radio playing and the car engine humming, open our eyes.

(reprinted with permission from Route 66, The Mother Road by Michael Wallis) 


"Like many hundreds of people, I have a deep feeling of nostalgia for this road. After several years of driving and photographing Route 66, I have organized an exhibition of my photographs with accompanying text. It is a pictorial journey that details the highway's history, forgotten towns, roadside diners, motels and people. I had made several, smaller 66 excursions before making the "big trip" to Los Angelesvia Route 66 in March of 1991. Photos from that trip are the backbone of this show. Numerous 66 photo-trips have followed since; I sadly discovered that many of my subjects were missing or in ruins."                                                                

   Shellee Graham 


The showing in Muscatineis part of a eighteen city national tour over a three and a half year period, containing 69 photographs taken by the artist Shellee Graham. The tour was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City,Missouri.  Right: Route 66 - Wigwam Hotel, Photographed and compiled by Shellee Graham)


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Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.