High Plains Drifters | Amanda Boe & Sarah Christianson

SIDE GALERY: 9.23.11 – 10.24.11


“Expose a child to a particular environment at his susceptible time and he will perceive in shapes of that environment until he dies.” — Wallace Stegner, from Wolf Willow

Amanda Boe and Sarah Christianson are photographers from the two Dakotas whose paths have converged in San Francisco. Upon meeting, they discovered that their work revolved around the idea of home and the retracing of their Midwestern roots. Although they are part of a larger exodus from the plains, Amanda and Sarah are compelled to return to their respective homes to work on long-term projects. Using the context of the Midwestern landscape as a backdrop, they investigate personal histories and emotional connections to place. Throughout their work, one question persists: what is it about these places that continue to draw them back, resonate with them, and inspire their vision?

Amanda Boe

“These photographs are part of an ongoing series titled What I Hold Dear, which explores my relationship between my native home in South Dakota and my present life in California. After leaving the Midwest over a decade ago, I developed a deeper appreciation for the places that influenced my life and felt inspired to revisit them with my camera. Between 2009 and 2011, I made a series of trips back to South Dakota, seeking out places from my past that resonate with me. At the same time, I continued to photograph in California and found myself drawn to scenery that reminded me of the Midwest: open, isolated, and quiet.

My work depicts an intersection of two worlds: looking back at a place left behind and searching for a sense of place in another. Moving through landscapes and interior spaces, a narrative began to unfold as I retraced my journey thus far. The process of photographing between California and South Dakota allowed me to address the feeling of being distanced yet emotionally attached to a place I once knew so well. What remains within me, and what I hold dear, is an innate longing for the familiar feeling of home. “

Sarah Christianson

For Sarah, home will always be a 1200-acre farm in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota. Its original 160 acres were homesteaded in 1884 by her great-great grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant. Sarah’s parents are now the fourth, and last, consecutive generation to work their land, as she and her siblings have all moved away to pursue other careers. These circumstances provided her with the impetus to document the farm at this critical juncture.

Part of Sarah’s project focuses on the marks made upon the land. Like a palimpsest, where different layers of texts intermingle on the same reused surface of vellum, these marks are mixtures of time. They evidence natural processes and seasonal agricultural practices (planting, cultivating, harvesting), as well as older traces of habitation and the Jeffersonian grid. She also combines her images with materials from the family’s archive, such as snapshots and documents, to create a rich, multi-layered narrative that weaves back and forth through time. Homeplace is the result of what Lucy Lippard calls “the mythical search for the axis mundi, for a center, for some place to stand, for something to hang on to” (from The Lure of the Local). It is a document that pays tribute to this place, its history and uncertain future.