William Wylie – Route 36

Photographs copyright William Wylie 2010 published by Flood Editions

I recently drove the Interstate 70 in the summer from Denver, CO to Kansas City, MO passing through Salina, Hays and Colby, Kansas, a route which runs a similar East-West pathway 30 miles South of Route 36. I recall a lot more rolling empty prairie than that revealed by William Wylie in his investigation of a parallel landscape on Route 36. I find it very interesting as to what subject’s intrigued Wylie in his quest.

Wylie uses a documentary style in a similar spirit as Walker Evans, perhaps photographing fewer signs and more trees. Wylie’s black and white photographs further distill this middle-land of America, the nondescript someplace found between Los Angeles and New York City.

This place is a solitude that is inhabited by birds and cattle, who linger amongst the trees, creeks, rolling lands, interspace by small towns and pick-up truck lined streets. The presence of the inhabitants is indirectly revealed by the rows of fences, meandering roads, and the manner in which the trees are planted or the crops are growing. These small towns reveal a sameness that I have difficulty telling them apart. This is a testimony of form following function. The omnipresent grain silos border these towns and the prerequisite water-tower looming over the plains, much like a pin stabbed into a map functioning as guideposts for those who linger out in the prairie.

Nicely stated by the poet Merrill Gilfillan in his foreword “But 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.”

Stiff covers with smythe-sewn binding, and a foreword written by Merrill Gilfillan.

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