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Grave Images: San Luis Valley

Photographs by Kathy T. Hettinga

Beginning in 1994, award-winning photographer and installation artist Kathy T.Hettinga began a fourteen-year project to document an unknown body of funerary folk art displayed in the cemeteries of rural and largely Hispanic communities in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Her photographs of unique grave markers made of wood, concrete, metal, sandstone, glass, and other materials by individuals or families to commemorate the passing of loved ones capture the ethereal beauty of the cemeteries and serve as a touchstone for our common understanding of loss, grief, and the need to memorialize and pay tribute.


Kathy T. Hettinga is a distinguished professor of art at the School of the Arts at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Her work has been displayed in numerous regional, national, and international exhibitions, and her artist’s books and computer prints are in the permanent collections of the Grunewald Center for Graphic Arts (UCLA), the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the New York Public Library, and Yale University Library. Her essays and images have been published in numerous anthologies.


"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 photographer—especially 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. . . . 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."


Center for Colorado & the West

Published By Museum of New Mexico Press

9.5 x 11 in. 180 pages 220 color photographs