Pilot, photographer, professor, and poet, Anne Noggle (1922-2005) began her groundbreaking career as a photographer late in life but quickly gained recognition for her witty and honest work.
Assumed Identities: Photographs by Anne Noggle opens at the New Mexico Museum of Art on Saturday, April 2, 2016 and runs through September 11, 2016. A free to the public opening is on Friday, April 1 from 5.30 to 7pm.
Drawn from the museum’s extensive holdings of her work, Assumed Identities, is survey of approximately thirty-five photographs, reintroduces the artist to the public ten years after her death. The show traces Noggle from her beginnings in photography in the late 1960s and early 1970s where we see her searching for subject matter in the early pieces – many taken in and around her home in Albuquerque. These photographs are the earliest inklings of the subject Noggle pursued most often in her career: herself and her world.
Evident in Noggle’s photographic portraits is the influence of Julia Margaret Cameron, Diane Arbus, and August Sander’s revealing photographic portrayals that engage the viewer with an unstinting gaze at family and friends, the ordinary work-a-day prol, to the obscure and even freakish. In this vein, when Noggle turned the camera on herself she became known for her unblinking self-portraits (including those showing herself recovering from a facelift and nudes made when she was in her seventies) as well as portraits of elderly women that hint at their rich lives. Noggle’s self-portraits present many guises to the camera – some real, some imaginary – and connect her firmly with both the feminist artists of the 1970s and to a long line of contemporary female photographic self-portraiture as seen in the work of Cindy Sherman, Gay Block, and others. “People tell me that the photographs of me are not in any way flattering,” the artist told curator Anne Tucker in 1993. “They are not meant to be. They are supposed to be real.”
Noggle’s place in the world of photography is somewhat unheralded. One of her most significant contributions to the field of photographic history was the groundbreaking exhibition, Women of Photography: An Historical Survey, a show she co-curated in 1975 with San Francisco Bay Area photographer Margery Mann and an inspiration for young artists at the time. Noggle received a Guggenheim Fellowship, three NEA awards, and an honorary doctorate from the University of New Mexico. Additionally, she was the museum’s first photography curator (1970 to 1976), and her work has been on view many times at the New Mexico Museum of Art; first in a 1968 photography competition and ten subsequent times in either group or survey shows.
Katherine Ware, both the exhibition curator and the museum’s Curator of Photography noted that, “Noggle was important in the development of photography in New Mexico. With more than 100 pieces of her work in the museum’s collection, her contributions as an artist have yet to be fully appreciated or evaluated. Assumed Identities is an attempt to examine her work in depth on the 10th anniversary of her death.”
About Anne Noggle
Born in Illinois, Noggle earned a pilot’s license by her senior year in high school, at a time when very few women were pilots. Working as a flight instructor, she served as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) during World War II. Following the war, she taught flying, did stunts for an aerial circus, and did crop-dusting throughout the Southwest. She then went on active duty with the Air Force and served overseas. Working in Paris for a time, her visits to the Louvre sparked her interest in art. From her crop-dusting work Noggle developed emphysema forcing her retirement from flying. She then moved to Albuquerque and at the age of thirty-eight enrolled as a freshman in art history at the University of New Mexico. Taking a studio art requirement, she developed photographs for the first time and felt the same kind of excitement she had experienced as a pilot, saying, “There is a resemblance, I think, between flying and photography. Both are done alone, in concept anyway, and both require independence and optimism, and some dumb courage.” She went on to earn a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in Art and Art History in 1966; she subsequently continued graduate studies in photography from 1966 until she earned a master’s degree in 1970. Her emphasis on portraiture was distinctly at odds with the focus of the art department at that time as shaped by Van Deren Coke but Noggle stood by her vision.