Six Vertical Landscapes

1. Missouri: Little Tarkio Creek, 40°02'48.6"N 95°19'27.1"W

"Scholarship, stories, and knowledge often frame Native peoples in relation to the past, stemming from accepted notions of linear time and existence. Indigenous scholars continue to make visible this problematic colonial narrative [...] Erasure of native peoples in America has been, and continues to be, enacted through willful selective amnesia of history and by simultaneously claiming Native histories as part of American identity."

Phenocia Bauerle, “Mapping Our World,” Aspáalooke Women and Warriors, The Neubaur Collegium for Culture and Society (Chicago, 2020), 13. 

2. Nebraska: North Platte River. 41°43'47.6"N 103°19'26.2"W

3. Wyoming: Big Sandy River. 42°06'29.4"N 109°27'05.6"W

4. Idaho: Portneuf, 42°37'14.9"N 112°00'23.3"W

5. Idaho: Almo Pluton, 42° 04’ 12” N 113° 42’ 45” W 

6. Nevada: Carson River, 39°14'12.2"N 119°35'16.2"W

"...the legitimization of polar opposites, the construct encourages a version of 'landscape violence,' an extension of the tendency towards violence that pervades American Society. The role of violence throughout American history and society has been well documented."

Robert Z. Melnick, “Considering Nature and Culture in Historic Landscape Preservation,” Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2000), 26.6 

The series Six Vertical Landscapes is an iteration of the landscape studies inspired by the landscape painting by the little known artist James Wilkins. In 1849, Wilkins traveled the Overland Trail from St. Louis, Missouri to Hang Town (now Placerville in present day California) to record and collect landscape details for his scroll panorama, The Grand Moving Mirror of the Overland Trail.


Since fall 2017, based on an initial retracing of Wilkins’s journey and over a six-week period, I recorded my experiences as a series of observational watercolor drawings, digital video, and photographs. Augmented subsequently by additional archival research, reading, drawing, and object making, these miniature landscape studies reference six specific locations on the Overland Trail.


The material history and experiences of European-American Westward expansion have significantly influenced not only the physical landscape across the continent of North America but have also produced an exclusion of life experiences and personal identities of those whose ancestry predates the European incursion. The six locations represented in this work are intended to invoke a larger sense of connectivity and a living continuity of indigenous experience. The grid coordinates in the title of each call upon contemporary digital network representations of the land and the remote viewing that such references can facilitate. The planer surface representations of each place hold details that might at first appear as oblique or inexplicable. But these out-of-place physical remnants are either the direct depictions or the actual presentation of recent physical leftovers—discarded and lost objects. They can also be understood as indicative of the contemporary traces of colonial violence and a society that is wasteful of its resources. Any movement in the present day landscape betrays the violence perpetrated in its making.

"In October of 2017, the artist Nicholas Lowe stood in Illinois, facing west across the Mississippi River, to capture the view spread out before him ... Lowe stood atop [Cahokia] Monks Mound. Though it sits only 10 miles away from the [St. Louis] Arch, the Mound was constructed between 900 and 1100, making it 1,000 years distant in time. By planting his feet on the firm solidity of its mass, Lowe steps into the Mound’s perspective of the city. Instead of looking back at history, he seems to be looking forward to his present. The collision of physical proximity and temporal distance presented ... brings a sharp awareness of dislocation, a realization that our relationship to the past is complicated, burdened with loss, and not so tied to chronology. This is the power of art. It can spark dialogues across the boundaries of time, media, or purpose."

Melissa Wolf, Curator of American Art, and 

Amy Torbert, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Assistant Curator of American Art, 

Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO

Art Along The Rivers: A Bicentennial Celebration, University of Chicago Press. 2021.

These objects are available for exhibition as a group or individually. '1. Missouri: Little Tarkio Creek' and '2. Nebraska: North Platte River.' are included in the exhibition Art Along The Rivers A Bicentennial Celebration, at the St. Louis Art Museum from October 3, 2021–January 9, 2022.

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