Western Dioramas by William Rugen

Issue 29

In Western Dioramas I am looking at how we have used, abused, forgotten and rediscovered the abundant space and limited resources of the American West. Year after year, decade after decade, and now, century after century people have looked at The West as a big blank canvas where they can paint a new start for themselves despite the fact that so many before have tried and failed. Unlike other places, however, the abundance of space usually means that the failures are not recycled but rather left there as a warning, like a bleached skeleton in the desert, and a new venture is started up next door or just down the road. These remains show how the American Dream is being scaled down. Where once we erected grand enterprises of permanence to match our idea of The West, we now work on a smaller, cheaper scale. Left behind are the mansions, monuments and grand public works, replaced by the utilitarian strip malls, dollar stores and trailer parks.

After nearly two centuries of Manifest Destiny we are still unsure of how to use the overwhelming space still available. People move west because they love the endless expanse of land and sky and all of its promise, but tend to live in clumps of poorly constructed houses surrounded by fences and brick walls, seemingly afraid of what might be lurking out there. A line is constantly drawn in the sand between mine and yours, between in-here and out-there, between civilization and the wilds. At best, an uneasy truce has been reached along that wary line and both sides are a bit worse off for the meeting.

William Rugen is a Seattle, WA based artist.
To view more of William's work, please visit his website

  White Sands National Monument, NM 

White Sands National Monument, NM 

  White Sands National Monument, NM 

White Sands National Monument, NM 

  Rest Area, NV 

Rest Area, NV 

  Burns, OR 

Burns, OR 

  Johnson Valley, CA 

Johnson Valley, CA 

  Near Dayton, NV 

Near Dayton, NV 

  Old Vegas Housing Development, Henderson, NV 

Old Vegas Housing Development, Henderson, NV 

  Old Vegas Housing Development, Henderson, NV 

Old Vegas Housing Development, Henderson, NV 

  Lakeview, OR 

Lakeview, OR 

  Nevada – California Border 

Nevada – California Border 

  Fortuna De Oro RV Park, Yuma, AZ 

Fortuna De Oro RV Park, Yuma, AZ 

  I-40, Exit 303, AZ 

I-40, Exit 303, AZ 

  Bloomfield, NM 

Bloomfield, NM 

  Lahotan Reservoir, NV 

Lahotan Reservoir, NV 

  Commercial Casino, Elko, NV 

Commercial Casino, Elko, NV 

  Roadside Memorial, AZ 

Roadside Memorial, AZ