Geoff Winningham

Artist Statement

I once met a man from New Mexico, and he told me how—with no prior experience and modest ambition—he had started his own vineyard. When his first harvest of grapes were judged to be superb and his first batch of wine exceeded all ex- pectations, one of his Mexican field workers had joyfully declared, “Dios mio, señor, es una chiripada! ”

Chiripada? The fledging vintner fell in love with the word on the spot, naming his winery for it, even before he understood the meaning. When I heard his story, I latched onto the word myself. I loved the sound of it, as well as the meaning, which I have found to be more nuanced and elusive than I first understood.

Chiripada, I have discovered, does not appear in any Spanish dictionary. Nor have I found a single Spanish speaker with a college degree who has heard the word. Chiripada, it turns out, is a slang expression, originating and used strictly among Mexican carpenters, stone masons, and other trades workers.

I have asked Mexican and New Mexican workers of various trades if they know the word, and I have found that most often they do. However, their understanding of the meaning of the word varies, depending on their trade, their age, and perhaps their imagination. Based on my three decades of persistent research into the meaning of this inspiring word—and for the encouragement of all artists and would-be artists—I offer the following:

chiripada (che-ree-pod’-ah) Noun.
Mexican colloquial Spanish, especially among working craftsmen.

1. an unplanned but surprisingly successful collaboration;

2. a mistake that turned out better than what was intended;

3. a stroke of luck.
4. a fluke.

At first glance, many of the photographs in this show could be seen as straightforward recordings of graffiti and other artifacts found on or near the street. I offer them here, however, as a collection of chiripadas, as “unplanned but surprisingly successful collaborations.”

As I wander the streets of a city or neighborhood, I might find a poster, pasted on a lamp post days or weeks ago by the first in a string of unwitting collaborators. Time and weather have contributed, peeling away and adding to the patina of the poster. Then another poster has been pasted on top of the first, and more weather has made an elegant fusion of the two.

Another time, I stumble upon a wall graced with a colorful image in pastel, unsigned, anonymous, but charming and worthy of study. Over time, other collaborators have passed and added expressive marks around the original image with brushes, markers, spray paint, and stickers. The wall is as alive as any artist’s canvas.

By the time I find it, the work could be said to be complete. But now it’s my turn. I study the piece from various angles and distances. The light, at the moment of my discovery, is ever-changing, so I wait and watch and catch a dozen variations, carefully framing and reframing all or a piece of the work. Eventually, having captured the piece, I take it home and continue to work with it. I size it, adjust it for color and contrast, and craft my finished print.

“ . . . the world itself,” John Szarkowski famously wrote, “is an artist of incomparable inventiveness.” What could possibly be more inspiring than to collaborate with the world itself?

Geoff Winningham



Education: Rice University – B.A. (English) 1965
Illinois Institute of Technology – M.S. (Photography) 1968

Employment: Rice University, Lynette S. Autrey Chair in the Humanities & Professor of Visual Arts

Freelance photography, filmmaking, and journalism, 1964-Present Director, Pozos Art Project, Inc, 2007-Present

Recent Books and Monographs

A Trail of Marvels: A Memoir of Mexico and the Day of the Dead, Dancer Press (Houston), September 2022.

Recent Solo Exhibitions

The Galveston That Is: Nature, Funk, and Fantasy in an Historic Place. Magnolia Gallery, Houston. June 7-August 24, 2022.

Recent Group Exhibitions

From Here to the Horizon, University of Nebraska, Sheldon Art Museum, January 27 – May 26, 2023.

Recent Grants

Houston Arts Alliance City Grant, January 1–June 30, 2022, for photography of the architecture and landscape of Galveston, Texas.

Recent Guest Artist, Public Lectures, and Featured Appearances

Houston Philosophical Society. lecture/presentation, October 17, 2023.
Morris Museum of Art. Augusta, GA. Guest artist presentation (online). February 7, 2022.
Art Center College of Design. Pasadena, CA. Master class in documentary cinematography (online). November 15, 2022.
Escuela Artistica, Madrid, Spain. Master class in photography (online). December 14, 2022. Friends of Fondren Library, Rice University, “A Trail of Marvels: A Memoir of Mexico and the Days of the Dead.” Keynote speaker for the annual meeting. September 7, 2022.
DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, A Trail of Marvels, October 25, 2022. Brazos Book Store, Houston, Texas. A Trail of Marvels, November 2, 2022.
Great Day Houston, KHOU Channel 11 Television, guest appearance and interview. November 13, 2022.

Continuing Education

Theater 303, “Contemporary American Drama,”3 credit-hour course with Prof. Weston Twardowski, Rice University, fall 2023.
“Creating Community Theater,” Cornerstone Theater Company, Los Angeles, CA. Workshop participant, October 14-16, 2022.


Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (99)
Museum of Modern Art, New York (23)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (11)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (12)
Boston Museum of Fine Arts (15)
International Museum of Photography, Rochester, New York (15) Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont (6)
Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas (15) Portland Museum of Art, Portland (2)
Harvard University Museum (2)
Princeton University Art Museum (2)
Seagrams Foundation (24)
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (15)
San Antonio Museum of Art (15)
Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego (25)
Wittliff Collection of Southwestern and Mexican Photography (339) New Orleans Museum of Art (3)
San Francisco Art Institute (12)
United States Library of Congress (145)
J. Paul Getty Museum (3)


Friday Night in the Coliseum, Dancer Press (Houston), 2020.

In the Eyes of Our Children: Houston, An American City, Pozos Art Project (Houston), 2017.

Of the Soil: Photographs of Vernacular Architecture and Stories of Changing Times in Arkansas,

University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville), 2014.

Going Back to Galveston: Nature, Funk and Fantasy in a Favorite Place, Texas A&M University Press (College Station), Text by J, Killingsworth, 94 photos by Geoff Winningham, 2011.

Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea: The Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico, Texas A&M University Press (College Station), 2010.

The Pozos Art Project: Art from the 2009 Workshops, Pozos Art Project (Houston), 2009. Mi Pueblo: The Pozos Children’s Project, The Jung Center (Houston), 2008.

Along Forgotten River, Texas State Historical Assn. (Austin), 2003.
In the Eye of the Sun: Mexican Fiestas, with essays by J. M. G, LeClezio and introduction by

Richard Rodriguez, W. W. Norton & Co. (New York), 1997.
Rice University: A 75th Anniversary Portrait, Rice University Press (Houston), 1987.
A Place of Dreams: Houston, an American City, Rice University Press (Houston), 1986.
Rites of Fall: High School Football in Texas, University of Texas Press (Austin), 1979.
Geoff Winningham: Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), 1974.
Going Texan: The Days of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Horizon Press (New York), 1972. Friday Night in the Coliseum, Allison Press (Houston), 1971.

Catalogs and Anthologies (selected)

Taken by Design, Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937-1971, Travis and Siegel, University of Chicago Press (2002), p. 198.

Game Face, by Geoffrey Biddle, Random house (New York), 2001. p. 71, p. 122.
Texas: 150 Works from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, by Allison de Lima Greene, Harry

N. Abrams (New York), 2000. p. 49.
The United States in the Twentieth Century, by John Wilson, Open University and Hodder &

Stoughton (London), 2000. 5 photographs.
This Sporting Life, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1992.
The Horse: Photographic Images, 1839 to the Present, Lang and Marks, ed., Abrams, 1992. Other Images, Other Realities: Mexican Photography Since 1930, Sewell Art Gallery, Rice

University 1990..
The Texas Landscape, 1960-1986, Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), 1986.
20th Century Photographs from the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA (New York), July, 1983. Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960, Museum of Modern Art (New

York), May, 1978.
Courthouse, Horizon Press (New York), 1978.
Camera, C.J. Bucher Ltd. (Lucerne, Switzerland), April, 1977.
The Great West, University of Colorado (Boulder), 1977.
Faces: A History of the Portrait in Photography, ed. Ben Maddow, Chanticleer Press (New

York), 1977.
Masters of the Camera, American Federation of the Arts (New York), 1976. On Time, Museum of Modern Art (New York), 1975.

In Our Fathers’ Sweetest Dreams: High School Football in Texas, (16mm, 30 min.) produced with

funding from the Southwest Alternate media Project, 1993.
The Pleasures of this Stately Dome, (16 mm, 54 min.), produced with funding from the NEA,

Public Media Section , 1976.
Friday Night in the Coliseum, (16 mm, 35 min.), produced for the Corporation for Public

Broadcasting, 1972.

Exhibitions: One Person Shows (Selected

Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Little Rock. March-April, 2015. Brandon Gallery, Houston, December 10, 2014-January 5, 2015. .
Robert Anderson Gallery, New York, March-April, 2011.
Palm Springs Museum, Palm Springs, CA, October-November 2011. Wittliff Gallery, Texas State University, San Marcos, April 12-May 19, 2008. Beeville Art Museum, Beeville, Texas, January 31 – May 20, 2005

Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, August-September, 2004 Palm Springs Museum, Palm Springs, California, April 30 – November 11, 2002
Special Collections Gallery, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, August-December, 1999. Leica Gallery, New York, September 11-October 24, 1998..

Pergola Gallery, Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, May-June, 1997. Duke University, Museum of Art, Durham, January-March, 1997.
Museo Rufino Tamayo, Oaxaca, Mexico, October-November, 1996.
Elizabeth Koogler McNay Museum, San Antonio, September, 1996-January, 1997. Museo de Montalegre, Montalegre, Portugal, May, 1991.

Transco Gallery, Houston, March-April, 1991.
Sewall Art Gallery, Rice University, September, 1986. Nimbus Gallery, Dallas, March, 1986.
San Antonio Museum of Art, May, 1983.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, February-March, 1983..
Wah Lui Gallery, Seattle, May, 1980.
Witkin Gallery, New York, 1979..
Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin, September, 1975.. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, April, 1974.
Pan Opticon Gallery, Boston, September, 1973.
Art Institute of Chicago, September, 1972.
Institute of Design, Chicago, May, 1972.


John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, for “Photographs of High School Football in Texas,” 1978.

National Endowment for the Arts of Photography Fellowship, for “Photographs of Rural Festivals in Texas,” 1975.

John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, for “Photographs of Texas,” 1972. AWARDS, GRANTS AND COMMISSIONS

Arkansas Humanities Council Grant to support research for the book Of the Soil. (April 1, 2013 to May 1, 2014)

Arkansas Humanities Council Grant to support research for the book Of the Soil. (April 1, 2011 to May 1, 2012)

Arts Initiative Fund Grant (Rice University) to develop and teach an interdisciplinary, undergraduate course with Professor Adrian Lenardic (“Visualizing Nature”).

J. B. Jackson Award from the Foundation for Landscape Studies for the best book on the American landscape for Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea (2010)

Ron Tyler Award from the Texas State Historical Association for the Best Illustrated Book on Texas History and Culture for Traveling the Shore of the Spanish Sea (2010)

Summerlee Foundation, Dallas, Texas. Research grant for a book on the history of the Gulf

Coast of Texas and Mexico, 2006.
Metro National Corporation and Bracewell, Giuliani commission to photograph the Gulf

Coast of Texas and Mexico, 2003.
Houston Endowment, Inc., Commission to photograph the landscape of Houston, 1993. Mid-America Photography Grant to photograph Mexican fiestas, 1993.
Rice University commission to photograph and produce a book on its 75th anniversary, 1987. The City Partnership commission to photograph the city of Houston, 1985-86.
Urban Investment and Development Company, Commission to photograph “Central

Houston,” 1983-84.

National Endowment for the Arts, Media Arts Grant, for a documentary film on Texas high school football, 1983.

First Federal of Arkansas, commission to photograph “The Vernacular Architecture of Arkansas,” 1980-81.

National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowship, for “A Photographic Study of Football in Texas,” 1977.

SeagramsFoundationcommissiontophotograph”CountyCourthousesoftheSouthern United States,” 1975-76.

Kimbell Art Museum commission to photograph the Kimbell Museum for the book Light is the Theme.

National Endowment for the Arts Public Media Grant, for a film on the Houston Astrodome, 1974.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting Grant, for a film, Friday Night in the Coliseum, 1971. WORK IN PROGRESS

  • –  A stage script adapting Of the Soil: Photographs of Vernacular Architecture and Stories of Changing Times in Arkansas for a theatrical production.

  • –  Photographs of Hermann Park, Houston.

  • –  Photographs along a 17th-century road near Monte Pio, Veracruz,

  • –  Workshops in photography and art with children in Mineral de Pozos, Mexico and

    Houston, Texas (Love Elementary School, Lanier Middle School, and Las Americas Newcomers School)