Inspired by the work of On Kawara, my evolving Zen practice, and a few generations of newspaper writers in my family, I began in spring of 2016 to cut out and methodically archive newspaper photography of rural places and cultures from two sources: the local rural publications I would encounter in my travels and their urban, mainstream counterparts at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
What began as a personal practice of pausing to mark time and place, and appreciating the art of local photojournalism, evolved into a much deeper, contradictory, and complex activity as the 2016 Presidential Election revealed to urban audiences the wide rifts between themselves and the rural communities I knew well. The difference in this visual language, and editorial hand, spoke to this condition in alternately forceful and subtle ways.
I have continued this practice, as these cultural, political, technological, and economic chasms have intensified in the years since -- and this work has expanded to include subscriptions to numerous rural newspapers, often in counterdisctinction to a single feature written about this community by the New York Times. Between these two platforms, what emerges is a much deeper, and much more ambiguous, articulation of our shared present moment.
Now in its currrent form, Local Archive houses and catalogs thousands of newsprint photographs and articles. Though this has been a private and deeply personal practice for close to six years, this archive was publicly debuted as part of the Field Notes exhibition at the Form + Content gallery in Minneapolis in November 2022.
High Visibility is a longterm, collaborative partnership between Art of the Rural, Plains Art Museum, and individuals & organizations across the continent. Through exhibitions, publications, podcasts, and place-based programs, our aim over time is to boldly reframe the narrative on rural America and Indian Country and to welcome sustained rural-urban exchange. is a longterm, collaborative partnership between Art of the Rural, Plains Art Museum, and individuals & organizations across the continent. Through exhibitions, publications, and place-based programs, our aim over time is to boldly reframe the narrative on rural America and Indian Country and to welcome sustained rural-urban exchange.
I’m grateful for the support of a Curatorial Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts as this work continues in 2022.
Faye Dant, Director of Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center in Hannibal, Missouri; photo: Anna Sirianni, KBIA
Spillway is a longterm, collaborative program grounded in the diverse cultures, communities, and social contexts of the Upper Mississippi River region that stretches from the headwaters in northern Minnesota to the confluence with the Ohio River, in Cairo, Illinois.
Through support for artists, culture-bearers, artisans, and storytellers – alongside the local organizations that support them – Spillway works to create the conditions for engaged projects that honor diverse lived experience, deepen regional relationships, and build networks of knowledge-sharing and exchange that will create opportunities for artists, culture-bearers, and artisans to thrive and to connect with new colleagues and audiences.
Spillway cultivates these values through three interlinked efforts: longterm fellowships for artists and culture-bearers in communities along the River, an online storytelling and knowledge sharing platform, and an annual Spillway Summit -- a free weekend of performances, exhibitions, excursions, and barbecues that also is an opportunity for the welcoming and hosting of the community cohorts involved in this work.
Spillway is an initiative supporting artists, culture-bearers, and local organizations in their expression of the diverse cultures, communities, and histories of the Upper Mississippi River region.
Work is underway with Engage Winona in Winona, Minnesota; Jim’s Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center in Hannibal, Missouri; the Crossings field school in St. Louis, Missouri; and The American Bottom Project in the East St. Louis region of Illinois.
I’m grateful for the support of the Builders Initiative and McKnight Foundation as this collaborative work launches in the full program launches in the fall of 2022.
Spillway Stories, a welcoming together of artists, culture-bearers, and storytellers to share the history, experiences, and visions for the future that animate community in the Winona, Minnesota region is currently online.
Snow Piles of the Upper Mississippi
February 16, 2019
Snow Piles of the Upper Mississippi is an ongoing project that begins with the photographic documentation of everyday, ephemeral snow piles as a means through which to consider the various accumulation of cultural, racial, and ecological change in a rural community.
This ongoing archival project began in the winter of 2017. A small selection of three images are shared periodically on Instagram here, with a forthcoming site in 2023.
The American Bottom Project
The American Bottom Gazette, issue 2
Through both an extensive digital resource and The American Bottom Gazette regional print publication, The American Bottom Project invites scholars, activists, artists, educators, and citizens to collaborate towards telling the complicated history of the 65-mile Mississippi River floodplain to the east of St. Louis. Begun in 2013, this work has recently been featured in Art in America and is the supported by Illinois Humanities and a Divided City grant via the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. I’m grateful to be collaborating with Jesse Vogler, Jennifer Colten, and Alissa Blatter in this longterm work.
I’m looking forward in 2022 to co-creating further issues of the Gazette with my colleagues, alongside extended support for an artist of culture-bearer to work closely with community organizations in the region to cultivate relationships and share the lived experiences and cultural histories of this region.
Mountains and Rivers Away
Synch, Wolverine/X-23 & Darwin; Image: R.B. Silva, Marte Gracia, Clayton Cowles
I am grateful for the opportunity to join Roshi Paul Kisho Stern in teaching Mountains and Rivers Away: Zen and the House of X, a course meeting intermittently online throughout the summer of 2022 to consider the emergent, multilayered ideas of time, power, and ecology within the House of X /Powers of X graphic novel.
This work, written by Jonathan Hickman, has been constantly on my mind since it was published in serial form in late 2019. The ideas of liberation and interdependence in House of X -- complicated and conflicting -- feel increasingly present.
I’m grateful to be a part of this exploration of life, storytelling, and spiritual practice, and to have the chance to share this Zen Garland course.
This collection of poetry, essays, fieldwork, and photography will be published by Last Chance Press in 2023.