Love Among the Ruins: A Town in Decline in LaToya Ruby Frazier's Witness

LaToya Ruby Frazier's photographs detail the personal loss when a city falls apart.

In a video titled DETOX (Braddock U.P.M.C.), 2011, the artist interviews her mother about her neurological symptoms, and she and her mother undergo a "detoxifying foot bath" at Braddock Hospital — pre-demolition. Braddock is likely rife with environmental hazards, but the procedure is proven quackery. Running electrical current through salt water with metal in it produces all kinds of colored gunk from corrosion. Practitioners try to pass off the matter as toxins from the patient's body.

In the video, mother and daughter sit side by side with their feet in saltwater baths with electrodes in the water. Stuff begins to accumulate in the water, and the doctor talks about how their systems are being cleansed and identifies the multicolored gunk as heavy metals and other undesirable matter. The video speaks to crappy medical care provided to residents by Braddock Hospital.

Frazier's mother is the artist's subject and collaborator in a number of works. There is honesty, equity, empathy and respect in these images. Frazier is not some outsider looking in; she's an insider seeing herself in her mother as they stand side by side, embrace or sit in a bar decorated for Christmas. In the show's catalogue, exhibition curator Dean Daderko recounts an anecdote from Frazier's first university photography class. When the artist saw Dorothea Lange's iconic photograph of a migrant mother, she asked, "What is that lady's name?"

Home on Braddock Avenue, 2007
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Michel Rein, Paris
Home on Braddock Avenue, 2007
Momme Portrait Series (Floral Comforter), 2000
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Michel Rein, Paris
Momme Portrait Series (Floral Comforter), 2000

Location Info


Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

5216 Montrose Blvd.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Museums

Region: Montrose


"LaToya Ruby Frazier: Witness"

Through October 13. Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5215 Montrose, 713-284-8250.

In Witness, Frazier's hometown isn't some backdrop for an ad campaign, and her family isn't a statistic.

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