Spreads for a Book I'll Never Write on the American West
I spent the summer of 2017 roughly following the Oregon Trail westward. Starting in Chicago, I made my way to Banner, WY where I spent one month at the Jentel Foundation. Just a few miles from an original settler wagon trail, I walked the back roads and considered how the violence of westward migration has impacted our current ideas of what it means to be American. I then continued west through Montana and Idaho, eventually spending a week in the Oregon high desert with Signal Fire. The trip, which included a visit to the area of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge that was occupied by the Bundy Clan in the winter of 2016, highlighted how our history with Manifest Destiny and land ownership continues to complicate our relationship to the American West.
The paintings and prints below draw from the romantic language and iconography we associate with the Frontier, rhetoric that masks a violent, problematic past that continues to isolate and marginalize large groups of Americans from an identity that was forged by westward expansion. The "conquering" of the west is part of the creation myth of this country, but it is a narrative that inherently excludes me and millions of others. I continue to grapple with my own relationship to American identity as I work through this project.