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Donaghey scholar’s small-town works turn heads in the Big Apple

Submitted by Jamila Brown on June 2, 2011 – 2:43 pmNo Comment

The last thing one would expect to be on the minds of New Yorkers is the fiscal situation of rural Arkansas; however, UALR student and photographer Alex Leme put this issue in their backyard.

For the past two years Leme has criss-crossed the country, recording the dwindling existence of what he calls “disappearing towns”. His extensive work won him a fellowship with nonprofit photography organization En Foco, which led to a spot in Brooklyn’s Skylight Gallery.

The collection, entitled “Small Town: Portrait of a Disappearing America,” is featured in the gallery’s “New Works #14” exhibit. While Leme has taken photographs from all over America he chose 25 pictures from phase one of his project in Cottonplant, AR to go to New York.

A small town of only 960 inhabitants, nestled between the large cities of Memphis and Little Rock, Cottonplant is really the epitome of Leme’s message.

“Although these towns are often located just outside major metropolises, the realities of their social and economic landscapes are worlds apart,” he said in his artist statement.

“It is my hope that this project will introduce today’s reality of small rural towns in America to a wider audience. My central aim is to raise awareness about the situation witnessed throughout rural America and to promote a more serious discussion around the subject.”

He plans to continue photographing dying towns for a few more years, aspiring to reach every corner of the country. A book of his work is coming out early next year and a second book is scheduled to be published after he finishes his tour.

“I’m too young for this to be my life’s work,” laughed Leme. “I would love to explore other themes and issues.”

The exhibit opened April 16 and will run through July 1. Leme is flying to New York for the artist reception on April 28, and to give a lecture on his work April 30.

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