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Myth of the American West: (Mis) Representation of the American West in Photography Exhibitions

Erin Elzi


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Thesis Description


Title

Myth of the American West: (Mis) Representation of the American West in Photography Exhibitions

Author

Erin Elzi

Advisor

Vanessa Rocco

Date

2012

Subjects

  • Photography
  • American West

    Abstract

    The history of photography in the United States has always been closely associated with the history of the American West. Early developments in the medium coincide chronologically with the claiming of the Frontier, and the resulting images have long fed into the mythological status given to the Western region of the United States.

    While the development of this Western Myth is an undeniable part of American culture, the way in which it is still perpetuated is worth examining. Although it is not the only carrier of the Myth, photography has remained one of the primary methods through which it has sustained relevancy for nearly 150 years. As much of the modern imagery has been created as a social commentary on the Myth, and that of earlier decades was shot as part of expeditionary documentation, it is the present-day presentation methods that call for scrutiny. The past 40 years has seen both exhibitions that aggressively sought to destroy or re-write the incorrect histories warped up in the Myth, and exhibitions that either maintain the romantic Cowboy Ideals or look at Western culture with an air of sympathy. By discussing a variety of exhibitions with a focus on the Western Myth, ranging from the iconic New Topographics exhibition of the 1970s, to the recent 2010 Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Into the Sunset, it becomes apparent that there is little in the way of standards for treating concepts that are shrouded in cultural taboo.

Geolocation

Collection

Citation

Erin Elzi, “Myth of the American West: (Mis) Representation of the American West in Photography Exhibitions,” History of Art & Design Theses, accessed September 21, 2017, http://hadthesis.pratt.edu/items/show/21.

Rights

Copyright Erin Elzi 2012