2 weeks ago I took my Advanced Photography class out on a little field trip to this wonderful little church near Rugby, ND. With the help of Dan Smith, an area photographer who knows the region well, got us permission to enter the church and a nearby homestead. There are many abandoned houses and buildings in ND. I have mixed feelings about them. They are great photographic material...detail and decay. But there is much more to North Dakota than a decaying set communities on the upper prairies.
This past month has been a busy and exciting one with two solo shows up simultaneously. Tomorrow, the show Concrete Abstractions at Minot State University will come down and I will make the 3+ hour drive out to pick up the work. Minot State has 2 galleries, one in the art department and one in the library. This exhibition was in the library. It is a unique but quality space for displaying. As Micah Bloom shown with his images below, the reflective surfaces mirror nice angles. (A special thank you to Micah for his photographs...leave it to the photographer (me) to forget to shoot images of his own show at the opening). I am immensely grateful to Minot State for the opportunity to show my work, much of which has not been seen beyond the walls of UND's art department.
As I said a few weeks ago, it is MFA season here at UND's Hughes Fine Art Center. Last week Meghan Duda presented her work. Influenced by a range of artists from the New Topographics to Gordon Matta-Clark, Meghan's work considers the ubiquity of the suburban home. When Meghan and her husband relocated to Fargo a few years ago, she was struck by the possibility of horizontal expansion has shaped the suburban housing areas of Fargo. Home shapes follow a few rough patterns in theses new developments. And yet Fargo is not alone in that respect. Several of her images come from Utah as well.
As someone who shares her interest in the New Topographics, I was immediately struck by (at least what appears to me) a strong lineage with several members of the group, namely Stephen Shore and the Becher's. Her connection to Shore is in subject matter while her connection to the Becher's is in matter of typologies of suburban homes as well as their rigorous system of grids within their installations. Following this method of Becher's typologies, Duda has laser cut the houses from the image thus breaking up the picture plane. By floating the image off the back frame, she is able to accentuate the break and absence with the lighting and shadows. On others, she has used the laser to etch detailed house floor plans over the image.
Another one of the key factors in her images is that she also draws upon the objective or sense of detachment so often associated with the group but extends backward strongly to Ed Ruscha. Like the New Topographers, she attempts to stay neutral...balancing between critique and endorsement.
For the most part, I have held my tongue on issues related to the University of North Dakota's nickname (at least on here). But recently I have become increasingly agitated by the continued arguments about the Fighting Sioux nickname. When we moved here 4 years ago from Sioux Falls, SD I knew that it was a controversial issue, but I had no idea how divisive it really was...and has been for some time. Recently, the state legislature overturned a November law that erased the nickname. So with the nickname now in effect once again, the NCAA has come with sanctions, UND risks not being fully accepted by their new conference, and has taken a further kick in the teeth by my home state's university. University of Iowa has uninvited UND to its April track meet. I applaud their decision. I hope to see more of the same from other schools siding with the NCAA as pressure mounts risking UND's precious hockey teams perhaps public opinion will shift as well. I do lament the cost this takes upon the student athlete. As a former athlete I know the amount of hours and commitment one puts into a sport and to have that taken away seems unfair. But until this issue of the nickname is settled, with the nickname being done away with, expect more sanctions and more invitations revoked. I for one am thankful for U of Iowa and their determined stance. It's not hard to do, but it makes me proud to be an Iowan.
Back in 2011, my fellow student at the time decided to put together a small suite of image from many of North Dakota's printmakers. For the past year, that collection has been traveling around the state at a variety of locations and venues through the North Dakota Art Gallery Association. The show actually has made its second stop in Minot this month with a visit to the Taube. Minot Daily News covered this visit as well as the one to Minot State back in November.
Traveling sites include:
James Memorial Art Center, Williston, ND;
Bismarck State College Gallery, Bismarck, ND;
University of Mary, Bismarck, ND,
Northwest Art Center, Minot, ND;
The Art Center, Jamestown, ND
Cando Art Center, Cando, ND;
Taube Museum of Art, Minot, ND;
Northern Lights Art Gallery, Mayville, ND;
Bismarck Art Gallery, Bismarck, ND
Since I was a child I have had a strange fascination with war. I would ask for picture books and check them out of the library as it was one of the few things I would read about. I had youthful plans of joining the military, but what once was a naïve patriotism has in the past 10 years become soundly checked by a growing theology and pacifism. But while I strongly disagree with war, I am still fascinated by its machinery and history.
This summer I had the opportunity to explore a bit further in the beautiful land of our northern neighbor: North Dakota. I had never been much beyond Bismark. But this year brought two trips to Turtle Lake, ND and north through Minot on our journey home. One of the nuggets of knowledge that I grew up knowing was the presence of the nuclear silos across ND. It never really seemed strange to me rather a matter of fact. And yet this summer when we started passing them on the road, they were startling to me. They had been part of my mental understanding of the world but I had never had the opportunity to experience them. What seemed strange was how near they were to the road and family farms. For me, the farm I grew up on is a sacred space and I would imagine that for many in my wife’s family, the homestead is sacred as well. And yet, the missile silo just down the road for them has become a common place. To my pacifist leanings, something like that in my “backyard” would qualify a profane space. A profane space I was still attracted to and would jump at the chance to tour and explore if I had the opportunity. What are we to do with place like this that really can serve little good? Should we consider them as profane because of what is housed in the ground? or because of what it represents? or has the potential to do? If this place is profane, can it be redeemed? And then how?