Western Landscape, 1987

Once Upon a Time in the West

In my triptych work from the series" Once Upon a Time in the West", I look at the Mythologies of the American West, our presence in this physical and social landscape. I use the triptych form to link past and present symbols of the West into implied narratives. These explore, through visual metaphor, our ideological and physical footprint in the West.

Every culture passing through the western United States, from the original Native American peoples, to the pioneers, homesteaders, farmers, cowboys, trappers, miners, loggers, and environmentalists who supplanted them, has used the land based on their perception of what the West was created for. Over time the definitions themselves have come to be seen as the land. The trappers, and now the miners and loggers see a vast natural resource open to plunder. Farmers see a desert land to irrigate, plow, plant and make fertile, while ranchers look out at a sprawling vacant landscape ready for their grazing herds. The Native American cultures see the earth as ancestor, a place given to exist in, not as a path to be trodden in search of personal gain.

I feel their is a parallel, if not a direct, influence on my work in the contemporary western literature of Edward Abbey, Bernard Devoto, Cormac Mc Carthy, A.B Guthrie, Marc Reisner, Wallace Stegner and James Welch. These western writers express observations and images that weave a visual dialogue characterizing the development of western life, as well as exploring present issues facing the region and celebrating its natural wonders.

The late Edward Abbey apply characterized the notion of being engulfed by this landscape in Desert Solitaire, Page 194. " Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear, the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break...I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real, Rock and sun". Although there is much to celebration in this perspective, there is clearly a skeptical eye toward what mankind may dream up next.