Dakota Survey

In the summer of 2011, without itinerary or preconception, I drove to the Dakotas. I knew that, by and large, Dakota vistas would be broad and flat, making for a straight horizon line. But, heading west from Grand Forks, I was interested to find how strongly I experienced the land as a grid. Roads run in straight lines, north / south or east / west. Property lines and rows of trees known as shelterbelts do the same. This arrangement reflects the Homestead Act, signed into law by President Lincoln in 1862. Making use of geographical surveys, the law granted sections of land to settlers pledged to “improve” them. Euro-Americans were displacing Native Americans. Cultivated crops would replace native prairie grasses.

I had seen the grid from the air, but had not before experienced the geometry of the Plains on the ground. I chose the square photographic format, as an expression of the geometry I saw before me. The landscape presented a pattern, based on flat terrain and especially on land use. I see the Dakota Survey images as landscape sections, emphasizing the lines and forms that nature and human history have created.     Back to Series