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Red Desert, Green Prairie, Blue Sky: Photographing the West

Red Desert, Green Prairie, Blue Sky: Photographing the West

July 5-August 14, 2011

Red Desert, Green Prairie, Blue Sky: Photographing the West will be on exhibit July 5 through August 14, 2011 at Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum. This striking photography exhibition documents the cultural landscape of the Great Plains, featuring the Red Desert of Wyoming, the prairie of Central Kansas, and the Llano Estacado of northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico.

These three regions belong to the arid expanse of the United States between the Missouri River and Rocky Mountains that was known as the Great American Desert in the 1800s because of the fragile, hostile character of the land. Perceived as an inhospitable wasteland, the High Plains did not attract European American settlers until the 1860s.

Images by eight regional photographers record the impact of human settlement on these largely untouched landscapes as individuals and companies have tapped into their agricultural potential or energy resources. Collectively, the photographs track the intervals of settlement, steady population decline, and environmental costs of these efforts as pictured in the land, buildings, artifacts, and current occupants of these geographical regions.

Martin Stupich’s photographs document the transformation of southern Wyoming’s Red Desert from a remote half-million acres of wilderness steppe to gas fields and coals mines a development that threatens an ecosystem the photographer describes “as frail as a scrim.” George Jerkovich’s panoramic scenes memorialize the diversity of the Kansas prairie from the rolling hills of the Dakota Sandstone region to the flat, semi-arid plains. Alternatively his photographs capture the evolution of Kansas agriculture from family farms to agribusiness as reflected in images of sunflower-dotted green prairies, expansive wheat fields, and dying small towns.

Commissioned by Text Tech University, six photographers Peter Brown, Rick Dingus, Steve Fitch, Miguel Gandert, Tony Gleaton, and Andrew John Liccardo document the impact of history, culture, and geography on the Llano Estacado of northwest Texas and eastern New Mexico. Their images reflect the rich history and culture that lives on in the wide expanse of hardscrabble canyon and grass that identify this region: the ups and downs of cattle ranching and cotton growing; its distinctive ethnic and religious mix; its sparse surface water and its once expansive but now diminishing aquifer.

The exhibition is organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 20 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at and Financial assistance for this exhibition has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The Crisp Museum is located in the Cultural Arts Center at River Campus, 518 S. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Museum summer hours Tues.-Fri.: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekends: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For additional information email or call (573) 651-2301.


River Campus, 175 Cultural Arts Center
Crisp Museum
One University Plaza, MS 7875
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701