WAM Collection Feature: Paula Chamlee
Carmel Highlands, California, 1993, Paula Chamlee Collection of the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Collection of the Weisman Art Museum University of MinnesotaThe collection of the Weisman Art Museum is extensive and spans far beyond the works on view in the galleries. I first realized this when visiting WAM with one of my Art History classes. We were learning about FSA photography that took place during the Great Depression, and our Professor had some prints pulled for us to view. It was surprising and so incredible to me that our campus museum had prints by famous photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. Viewing their works in person was much more engaging than viewing the works on a PowerPoint slide in class. Access to WAM’s permanent collection is an extremely valuable resource for all students on campus.

Using the online database of WAM's collection, I discovered many more of the artworks at WAM. I could search works by medium, artist, or by an exhibition that they were in. After about an hour of “fun”, an artist named Paula Chamlee stood out to me.

An iceberg on the water
A person by an anvil

Jökulsárlón, Iceland, 2004, Paula Chamlee  |   Larry Cooper, Birmingham, Alabama, 1993, Paula Chamlee
Collection of the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

Chamlee’s works first appealed to me because of her style of photography. All of her works WAM’s collection were shot with an 8x10 film camera during the 1990s and early 2000s. I enjoy studying her photographs because she took them in the contemporary world, but not with contemporary technology. The black and white prints create a sense of nostalgia and artistry, which are feelings that I do not feel in my world everyday. The works appeal to me because they were taken during my lifetime, and yet they feel like a step back into a previous one. Chamlee’s grand Icelandic landscapes are reminiscent of Ansel Adams at Yosemite, and her portraits remind me of Walker Evans and FSA documentary photography. I look at her work and see stories, which I find inspiring and intriguing.

A door and a doorframe
Pojoaque, New Mexico, 20th century, Paula Chamlee
Collection of the Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota

After discovering Chamlee’s works at WAM, I became more interested and continued to research her. One of her photographs was used in the 1998 exhibition at WAM, Women in the Weisman Collection: The Spirit of Seneca Falls, commemorating 150 years since the convention of 1948, but her work hasn't been on view in the galleries since. WAM has a total of 32 Paula Chamlee prints in their collection and they are all available, by appointment, to view in the Art Study room.

To explore more of the Weisman Art Museum's collection, visit To make an appointment to view works in the Art Study room, contact our Registrar of Collections Rosa Corral at