WILD WEST AT BDGA PRINT COLLABORATIONS
The Wild West at BDGA exhibition investigated the Old West’s landscape-related images and symbols. Territorial maps, railroads, lumber camps, bison, arrows, and tumble weeds; all images rich with meaning and historic context as well as a direct relationship to the region’s cultural landscape.
Wild West at BDGA, a self-financed research project was primarily funded by merchandising the research effort with a series of collaborative, topical, low-priced prints, postcards, and branded clothing collaboration with Bodega.
The following artworks are a selection of print collaborations from the Wild West at BDGA exhibition. An image of each print has been paired with a brief explanation about the imagery and its relationship to America’s western landscape.
The "S" in Wild West, 18X24" Giclée print with Brad Crane
Digital collage typography series spelling out "WIld West." Letter S based on the idiom, “shoot yourself in the foot,” as in to do something ecologically foolish which later causes problems for you.
Image Source: Historic photography of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Rider sidearms, Harvard Archives (VIA). Online. Accessed November 11, 2011.
American Bison, 9x12" silkscreen print with Trifecta Editions
The bison is one of the time-honored symbolic animals of the Old West. As the keystone species of North America’s Great Plains, Bison bison bison (plains buffalo) shaped America’s prairie grassland ecological system for millenniums. Long before man re-shaped the American West’s vast ecosystem with sprawling networks of housing, agriculture, industry and infrastructure, bison were the crucial player in maintaining this delicately balanced land of grass, fire, and migrating herds. Today, less than 1% of America’s “pre-discovery” prairie grasslands remain and approximately only 4,000 “wild” buffalo persist, down from an estimated 80 million buffalo in the mid-1800’s.
American Timber Saw, 8X10" 4-color letterpress print with Union Press
Natural resource industries always leave clues to a landscape’s history. These clues include landscape forms, town names and industrial artifacts. Cedar City, Utah is a good example of this phenomenon. There is no timber industry left in Cedar City. Still, there are plenty of “wall hanger” timber saws for sale at Betty’s Antiques on South Main Street’s mile-long strip mall. What was once a thriving industrial town, is now just a tourist stop over between Bryce Canyon and Las Vegas. Betty’s shop is also a rusty reminder that the commercial baton of industry is passed on with diminishing margins of return in tourist country as the West’s landscape continues to be re-adapted by modern America.
Tumble Weed, 5x7" letterpress print with Valor Press
The tumble weed, the Wild West’s iconic wind dispersed invasive forb was introduced to North America in South Dakota by Russian Immigrants in 1873. “Bobbed Wire” Russian thistle (Salsola tragus) matures, breaks off at its base and drops seeds as it tumbles across the landscape. Tumble weed spreads quickly along roadside corridors and across disturbed landscapes such as overgrazed cattle range and crop fields. Beyond the agricultural menace, tumble weeds are often “collected” by fences and buildings and pose a serious fire hazard to life, livestock and property. Burning tumble weeds easily blow across fire fighting lines in high winds to defy firefighting efforts. Incredibly, untold teenagers and rambunctious old cowboy alike still get their kicks from playing “Fire ball” with this dry freewheeling fuel. Beyond this range ritual, in recent years tumbleweed land art has been added to the cultural landscape of the American West.
Golden Spike, 5x7" two-color letterpress print with Valor Press
On May 10, 1869 the construction of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroad lines connected at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory. To publicize the achievement, railroad financier Leland Stanford drove the final “Golden Spike” (AKA “The Last Spike”) and commemorated the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. This same celebrated “Golden Spike” was arguably the gilded nail in the coffin of the American bison. The First Transcontinental Railroad not only split the Great Plain’s bison herd in two, but it also accelerated its slaughter. Within twenty years of driving “The Last Spike” the American bison population dwindled from 14 million to less than 1000. By 1889 the extinction of the Plains bison was generally accepted as a forgone conclusion by the country’s leading zoologists.
Seven Arrows, 5x7" letterpress print with Valor Press
The meaning of the arrow symbol in North America is as diverse as the American landscape itself. The specific meaning of the arrow symbol is determined by the manner in which it’s depicted. Crossed arrows symbolize friendship. A single arrow symbolizes protection and defense. A single broken arrow communicates peace between peoples. Tree-hugging types claim that seven broken arrows communicate a message of peace between man and nature, the highest form of earthly harmony. According to some interpretations, the directions in which the seven arrows point add another layer of meaning. Arrows pointing down are a statement of environmental solidarity. Arrows pointing to the right announce an intention to improve one’s ecological relationship. Arrows pointing left are a plea for environmental forgiveness. When all else fails, arrows pointing up are said to be an appeal to the heavens.