2013 - Ongoing
United States; Yosemite Valley, California, United States; Ouray, Colorado, United States; Palm Springs, California, United States; Winslow, Arizona, United States; Elko, Nevada, United States; Salt Lake City, Utah, United States; New Orleans, Louisiana, United States; Elk City, Oklahoma, United States; Claremore, Oklahoma, United States
The landscapes of The United States of America reveal essential contradictions within this country’s narrative of national identity. Official and unofficial American heritage sites draw in crowds of tourists: people captivated by nostalgia. Efforts to engage visitors with a history that privileges a pioneer mythology strip the land of its truth, effectively fencing in a model America, alienated from its history, and enclosed as property for the amusement of docile consumers. In “American Terrarium,” I highlight the curation disguised as preservation that occurs at these celebrated landmarks. I am drawn to the brief superficial stops of visitors looking to reinforce or challenge an identity that denies this country’s history of settler colonialism. These sites, or as I prefer to call them, terrariums, are artificial landscapes arranged for the perpetuation of the great American myth. Despite this devotion to American exceptionalism, the landscape and its visitors will often betray the trauma of colonization, teetering between the worlds of mythology and erased history.