"July 11 1862

   .... started this morning for Green River. Soon after starting our eyes lit upon game - a large antelope quietly reposing near the roadside, some distance ahead. 

...About twenty five miles of level, sandy road, for the most part, bought us to Green river at nine P.M."

 

William Smedley, July 11, 1862

We Saw The Elephant: Overland Trail Diaries from The Lander Trail (MN: Jackpine Press, 2010), 123.

"Thursday morning May 18th

We crossed the great Tarcao swamp it took eight yoke of oxen to pull us thro’. The mud was thick and deep. Still, a person on foot can could cross it, without getting over the shoes, but the heavy wagons cut in to the axletrees. Witnessing about 18 wagons cross was an animating scene, a good subject for a sketch."

 

James Wilkins,

Journal of overland trip from St Louis MO to Sacramento CA. Via the California Trail. 1849, May 7 - October 6. [HM 27511] The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. 

Sixteen Frames

"( July ) 26th [1849]      Commences with fly'g clouds, light breeze from N.E. Temp 62

Made an early start, (6AM) and reached "Independence Rock" by noon, Sent the mules across the Sweet Water river, (here very shallow) to a wet marsh opposite, under guard, to graze. Mornings's march sandy."

 

J. Goldsborough Bruff

July 26th 1849

Gold Rush Journals & Drawings. Vol.1

Columbia University Press New York. 1944. p.54. 

"Saturday, June 1st 1849.

What little timber there is, is on the other side of the river. the platte is a muddy turbulent rapid stream, worse than the Missouri. it is covered with islands most of them with young Cottonwoods on, and they being nearly level with the water..."

James Wilkins, Journal of overland trip from St Louis MO to Sacramento CA (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1849).

"Thursday 16th Aug

Camped late this evening in one of the worst places yet. we found all the grass for the last 2 or 3 miles before we leave Goose Creek eat off to the klast blade. being unwilling to turn back we pushed on, but found the country more sterile. nothing but the wild sage..." 

 

James Wilkins,

Journal of overland trip from St Louis MO to Sacramento CA. Via the California Trail. 1849, May 7 - October 6. [HM 27511] The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. 

This 25-minute video was developed through research into the life and work of portrait and landscape painter James Wilkins. In 1849, Wilkins traveled by the Overland Trail to California with the intention of gathering visual materials from which to make a moving panorama. The panorama was completed in Peoria, IL in 1850. It was premiered in September and subsequently performed across the Midwest to great acclaim throughout the1850s. It has since perished along with many details relating to James Wilkins's life and work. Of the 200 drawings Wilkins is thought to have made, 50 have survived and are currently in the collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI. The journal Wilkins kept during his journey stands as one of the most vivid Trail records of the time; it resides at the Huntington Library, in San Marino, CA. A full transcription of the diary with commentary and reproductions of the 50 watercolor drawings was edited by John Frances McDermott and published in 1968: An Artist Of The Overland Trail: The 1849 Diary and Sketches of James F. Wilkins (San Marino, California: Huntington Library, 1968).

In Fall 2017, I undertook to retrace Wilkins’s journey and, over a six week period, recorded my experiences in a series of observational watercolor drawings, digital video, and photographs. I also kept a daily journal. These plein-air studies served as observational touch points on the landscape and were augmented along the way with archival research into the material history and experiences of those traveling westward. The diaries and first-hand accounts of life on the trail alongside visits to Trail sites and museums revealed additional contextual details about life on the trail and the conditions of American Westward expansion.

My writing and reflections on the experience, the landscape, and the initial subsequent artworks was compiled in a 2017-18 blog, Itinerary, Landscape, Process. In addition, my reflections on the context of nineteenth century panorama making is published in two papers in the International Panorama Council Journal, Volumes 3 and 4.

 

"Sixteen Frames—a moving mirror of the overland trail consists of slow, horizontal shots meant to mimic the extra-wide format of a 19th-century panorama painting. The video showcases the layered histories and contemporary resonances manifested in locations along the Overland Trail—where James Wilkins traveled—through documentation of the effects of human intervention and technological progress on the landscape. Lowe used Wilkins’s archive and historical documentation to match rock formations, named landmarks, and specific topographies—often identifying the general locales, if not the precise places, that Wilkins documented."

Hannah Klemm

Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO.

New Media Series: Nicholas Lowe. August 20, 2021–January 9, 2022.

 

The video is available to exhibit as a single channel projection or screen installation; a low resolution embedded copy can be viewed on the Behance portfolio site.

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Remote Viewing: Panorama Narrative, Landscape Experience and Heritage

International Panorama Council Journal Vol 4

2020

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