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Brett Erickson

“If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making.”
          Edward Abbey

The West continues to supplicate itself to expansive development, invasive resource exploitation, and divisive political scheming, the vistas veiled by the landmarks of the farce of human progress. Yet a paradox exists here, for while humankind unabashedly constructs its “synthetic prison,” there is a joy of heart when witnessing the beauty below the scars.

As a boy growing up in the rural West, the land of Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, and Wright Morris, coarse wheat fibers and tender corn silk in July were the threads which wove together the quilt that was my world. My playmates were not other children, but instead weary and stoic cottonwoods, their arms apathetic even as I embraced them readily, and with love. Mine was the azure, and the gold, the brown of harvest and the green of spring, the sensual curve of a grass-hidden, sandy dune whose advances were never seductively successful for a matrimony with trees. The Rocky Mountains and thunderheads were my skyscrapers, a whispering creek the subway. These, my muslin; the horizon, my patchwork.

It ought be easily understood, then, that I see through the chaff, past the synthetic, and between the industry. I look less for the despair of development—though certainly this is present in my photographs—and more for the perseverance of the all but disproven myth of the indomitable landscape of the West. I endeavor to show through my art that which remains beneath, but simultaneously, that which obscures and exemplifies; landscapes are both cultural and terrestrial. Lives are quilted into the earth. Long ago as a graduate student studying English, I fell deeply in love with the work of the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, and a single line still describes my photographs: “A terrible beauty is born.”