Views from Wonderland, Volume 1: the Visitors by Janet Pritchard
My romance with the West began as a child of the mid-Atlantic nurtured by horseback riding, movies and my Father’s dreams. However, when I began to spend summers in Wyoming as an adolescent my world changed forever. Views from Wonderland began with a vintage picture postcard by F. Jay Haynes. When I turned it over and read these words, I was hooked back into a dream I thought was past: “I cannot describe the Yellowstone, as the dictionary is only a book. It is more than scenery, and in some places it is so beautiful that the men take off their hats and the women are silent!”
Views unfolded slowly in my mind as I returned to wander among the postcard views I was collecting. Soon I was cruising the Internet for clues to questions they raised. As a landscape photographer, I use information from many sources to immerse myself in a geographic region, a method I describe as the pursuit of artistic vision through historical empathy. For this project, a fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society allowed me to look closely at F. V. Hayden’s government reports.
Now when I walk in the park I experience the land physically as topographic features stretch out beneath my feet; geology is everywhere evident to my eyes and wild animals rule. I experience it emotionally through the lens of personal memory as qualities of light, colors of earth and smells in the air trigger memories of my years in Wyoming as a young woman yearning for something she could not analyze. All the while, the lens of cultural memory preserved in history, links my experiences with those of a larger society, and images by others are present in my mind’s eye. These photographs of park visitors are but the first chapter of a larger story I have to tell about Yellowstone that began with the anonymous words of a park visitor mailed on July 26, 1914, from Helena, Montana, to Southbridge, Massachusetts: “I can not describe the Yellowstone…”
Janet Pritchard is a Mansfield Center, CT based artist and teacher at the University of Connecticut.
To view more of Janet's work, please visit her website.