Five pages from my folio of digital prints, "Modern Life Stories," appear in the book

Graphic Design and Reading

Gunnar Swanson, editor

Allworth Press 2000


ABOUT "MODERN LIFE STORIES": In this work I am placing childhood memories, like transparent overlays, on top of larger societal and cultural events. Continuing my long investigation of the 1960s in the U.S., I have combined passages from "behavior manuals," (etiquette books, home economics texts, etc.) prescribing social and cultural codes, with stories about myself, a "Negro" Catholic girl in a military family. In combination, these two perspectives of a time period illuminate some subtleties and complexities that are often lost in public mediated representations.

Mary Abbe wrote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on October 22, 1999 in her review of the group show, "Sources" at the Macalester College Art Gallery:


Gaiter.... addresses American racism indirectly and without rancor or blame in her "Modern Life Stories." The quasi-autobiographical series recounts her 1960s childhood as "a Negro girl in a military and Catholic family." Her father was a U.S. military officer, and she spent much of her chilhood in Europe [actually only 2 years] simultaneously restricted by the formality of military life and shielded from the worst of American racism.

She distills those experiences into vignettes that combine her writing with family photos and snippets from 1960s etiquette books. Digitized and printed on tile-sized cards, her casual but utterly precise stories ring true to the time. The etiquette instructions offer a more innocent slant on an era that typically is recalled with incendiary news clips about war, racism and assassinations.

In their universality, the etiquette remarks also span the inevitable racial chasm that often separates white and black Americans. Shaped with a remarkable generosity of spirit, Gaiter’s vignettes humanize a pivotal moment in American race history that seems in retrospect more innocent, hopeful and scary than today.
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