MY DAKOTA @ ND Museum of Art

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©Rebecca Norris Webb, “Badlands” from “My Dakota” at the North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND, June 5-Aug. 6 and Ricco/Maresca Gallery, NYC, June 20-Aug. 17

North Dakota Museum of Art Curator Laurel Reuter: My Dakota is as much an elegy to a time and place as it is a memorial to your brother. It is unlike any other photo book I have seen about the Dakotas.   

While objects in the forefront seem to ground each photograph, the overall composition often suggests movement stretching far into time and space. The visual parallels the passage of your brother into the beyond just as the prairie itself stretches endlessly toward the far horizon. Is this a conscious theme or am I imagining?

Rebecca Norris Webb:  I think you’ve beautifully captured the sense of tension in the frame, between the near and the far, the tangible and the ethereal, the ground one stands on and the distant horizon, all of which may also suggest the living and the dead.  In the darkest time of grief, one feels suspended between two worlds, sometimes floating, sometimes feeling tugged in two directions at once.

For months after my brother died, it felt as if his loss was carving its own territory, a kind of borderland between memory and the badlands and prairie.

LR: Your photographs layer and dissolve. They soften, bleed, and liquefy. Could this be a conscious or unconscious metaphor for grief itself?

RNW:  An intriguing observation, and one I hadn’t thought about before.   What you’re describing suggests the transformative quality of grief.  This notion is also echoed in some of the text pieces in the book, such as —  “Does the prairie long to be an inland sea again?”

Thinking about grief and transformation also reminds me of a conversation poet Marie Howe had with another poet, Stanley Kunitz, in the months following her younger brother’s death. “I feel something has me in its mouth and is chewing me,” said Howe. “Yes, and you must wait and see who you’ll be when it’s done with you,” replied Kunitz.

To read the rest of “The Geography of Loss” conversation with NDMOA curator Laurel Reuter and Rebecca: http://www.riccomaresca.com/the-geography-of-loss/

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©Alex Webb, “Rebecca installing her handwritten text pieces on the walls of her ‘My Dakota” exhibition at the North Dakota Museum of Art.

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