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With a foreword by Merrill Gilfillan
This series of fifty-four photographs by William Wylie follows Route 36 across the Kansas prairie, capturing the region’s strong light and registering detailed textures within its vast spaces. Cottonwood trees, twisted by wind, break up the expanses, conveying a sense of scale and vertical life. Typically, the images move between the dry, rolling landscape and stark, vertical structures. Buildings often present blank faces, abandoned without names or signage, former uses unspecified. They sometimes appear as depthless surfaces against the deep expanse of prairie. Moving through the collection, we come to recognize this tension—between obsolescence and natural beauty—as characteristic of the region and its moment in history.
In his foreword to the book, the poet and essayist Merrill Gilfillan comments, “It seems continually necessary to reassert that landscape study and its reflective arts are anything but passive disciplines, that civilization in a sustaining, daily sense emerges most surely from good relations with one’s surroundings (the perfect word) and the inner landscape of possibility held in the head and heart. Bill Wylie’s recent 36 crossings-with-camera remint all of this: the region’s great capacity for inflection, double take, and surprise. The humble aplomb of things-in-waiting: a preposterous barn, crooked old trees half crazy with neglect. And the benignity of a deftly cast eye.”
“It is impossible to put into words how an artist finds and conveys meaning in apparently empty fields, on small-town streets, next to humble buildings . . . but I can affirm that William Wylie is able to help us see these mysteries as significant and even redeeming.” —Robert Adams