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Jessica Lange connects with her way home


November 1, 2019

powerHouse Books

West End

Words are sparse in Cloquet native Jessica Lange's latest book of photography, simply titled "Highway 61" and featuring photographs taken along the highway from the North Shore to New Orleans.

"I have a long history with Highway 61," Lange wrote in the back of the book. "I was born in a small town along that road in northern Minnesota, as were my parents and sisters. Most of my family - grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins - were born, raised, married, and died in towns on that same stretch. Before the interstate was built, Highway 61 was the main route north and south."

She writes about how vital the road was in visiting relatives and going to events both near and far. She also talked about leaving Cloquet after graduating from high school and some of the inspiration for her current work.

"In 1965 I bought my first album, 'Highway 61 Revisited,' by a fellow Minnesotan. Dylan's highway was different from mine, but he put it out there. He made it seem important. And I felt like I was in on the secret. At 18 when I left home, I boarded a Greyhound bus at the Tulip Shop in Cloquet, and headed south out of town on Highway 61, on my way to Europe and beyond, the start of a new life. I have been driving this road again recently, back and forth from my home in New Orleans to my cabin in northern Minnesota; sometimes just passing through place along the way and sometimes staying awhile."

Lange has been interested in photography since attending the University of Minnesota and meeting a photographer whom she eventually married before she exploded on the movie scene in her role in the remake of "King Kong" in 1976. She went on to become a two-time Academy Award winner, along with winning three Emmys for television work and a Tony Award for stage acting.

Lange has always come back home. She is spotted in the region quite regularly. And in her essay in "Highway 61," she keeps her childhood here close, as evidenced in the portion talking about when 61 is known as the "Blues Highway," inspiring many a musician.

"I felt that loneliness as a child and I feel it even more acutely now," she writes. "Long stretches of 61 are empty, forlorn, as if in mourning for what has gone missing - the hometowns, the neighborhoods, family farms, factories, and mills. Even the strip malls have failed ... these photographs are a chronicle of what I witnessed along and near Highway 61. It has been a long drive, wrapped in my story."

Ted Loos, a writer for the New York Times, took a trip up the North Shore with Lange this past summer in anticipation of the release of "Highway 61" in September.

powerHouse Books

The photo at right was taken in New Orleans.

"Photography, and what it captures, has potency for Lange, who recounted a moment when she was 5 or 6, looking through a box of photos in her grandparents' attic," Loos wrote.

"One man was looking directly into the camera, and his gaze was so arresting to me as a little girl," Lange told him. "And I thought, 'I'm connecting to him somehow.' That's the power of photography."

Lange works with only film, as opposed to digital formats, and mostly black and white. She also prides herself on not cropping her photos, preferring to frame the image in her viewfinder. The photographs are not captioned, the only delineation being which state they were taken in. The Minnesota photographs feature at least two Duluth locations,

Canal Park, with kids climbing the so-called Uncle Harvey's Mausoleum in Lake Superior, along with Curly's Bar in Lincoln Park.


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