Journey Through The Desert – The Road Less Traveled features work by approximately 20 American photographers – beginning with an expansive presentation on the archive of Stephen H. Willard who captured the spiritual and natural beauty of the desert in the early part of the 20thcentury. The show continues with contemporary images taken at the end of the century by various photographers such as John Divola, Lee Friedlander, Karen Halverson, Wanda Hammerbeck, Mark Klett, Michael McMillen, Richard Misrach, Mark Ruwedel, and others. These artists present diverse interpretations that deliberately push the visual boundaries of desert photography in surprisingly new directions.
This exhibition is not about the history of photography and how the themes of beauty and pictorial documentation have been interpreted through time. Instead, the selection seeks to examine the individual photographer’s distinct visions and unique journeys through the American deserts of the West.
Organized into three major themes, Land/Sky, Abandoned/Forgotten Places, and Tracks in the Sands, the exhibition loosely suggests a visual narrative that begins with the photographer’s journey through the land, from panoramic views to distant and isolated places. The recurring theme of the photographer’s vehicle is introduced to symbolize exploration of the vast desert. For example, Willard has documented the challenges he faced prior to the development of paved roads, air conditioned vehicles, and convenience rest stops. The visual journey continues as artists reveal through their camera lenses the dilemma of reconciling human interaction with the allure and beauty of the desert in contrast with the harsh reality of the extreme environment.
(Photo: Stuart Klipper, Intersection, H’ways 166/ 118, Jeff Davis Co., Texas 28 Dec 2004, 2004, type c print, Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, purchase with funds derived from a previous gift from Kirk and Anne Douglas (39-2006))