Borderlands

Art, Recent Releases

By Mark Vitaris

ISBN # 9781989466070
Author Mark Vitaris
Pages 192
Size 12 x 12 inches
Binding type Hard Cover
Release Date March 26, 2020
Price CAD$ 60

The book is a photographic discourse on the country that straddles the forty-ninth parallel from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to the grasslands of Saskatchewan and to the western Dakotas. It depicts the land metaphorically as a river of time with tributaries of history and disparate cultures flowing in discontinuous moments of consciousness. It is a portrayal of a land where you can feel the wind blow the dust of ages, a place of melancholic beauty, an oasis of solitudes. As a component of a larger project, it draws upon an awareness of the histories enacted on the land leading me on a course of artistic and personal exploration toward the intersection of pasts and the present.

Many years ago the natural flow of goods and ideas on the northern Great Plains was oriented north and south. With the creation of the 49th parallel, the international boundary effectively cut off this natural flow. Borderlands Project explores the historical ramifications of the border and more generally, the concept of borders from an artist’s point of view. As an immigrant, I understand liminal states, of being not one nor the other until conscious choices are made.

The eye is an inveterate collector.
– Walker Evans

The art of photographer, media producer, and mixed media artist Mark Vitaris is sweeping in style and scope. Through his art, he preserves that which is ephemeral. He believes there is an intimate connection between the forms his art takes and the circumstances from which it derives.

For much of his professional and artistic career, location photography has been his chosen métier. His work is project-based, honed from decades of professional assignments employing natural light and conditions to interpret visual concepts. His art is also projected-based and interdisciplinary. Five years of research and travel went into the production his current project, Borderlands, the book of the same title being a key aspect of this endeavour.

Vitaris earned a B.A. in Communications, from the University of Ottawa (Canada). His award winning work has been widely exhibited and is included in private and public collections provincially, nationally, and internationally. He resides in Calgary, Alberta.

Mark Vitaris presents powerful images and words throughout Borderlands. The stories and poems, with the accompanying dramatic photos, leave the reader with a sense of journey and purpose as they travel along both sides of the Canadian-American international boundary.

Ken Robison 
Historian, Overholser Historical Research Center
Fort Benton, Montana

Vitaris sees beyond the clichéd images of abandoned buildings to the meaning that lingers on. He draws on the voices he hears, and uses natural light brilliantly to draw our eye into the clues residing in the scenes. His compositions are clear-eyed, flawless and evocative. This is a landscape that doesn’t tolerate sentimentality. Vitaris has been honing his story for years and could easily have produced a book with thousands of images. He carefully edits for drama giving an intimate glimpse of an old checkerboard then moving to the bigger breathtaking landscape. Juxtapositions can be gently ironic at times.

Donna Livingstone
CEO, Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation and
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
Banff, Alberta

Technically and aesthetically the photographs are exquisite. The images evoke a bewildering mix of emotions in me: awe-struck, forlorn, exhilarated, saddened, jubilant, even terrifying. The text is unequivocally relevant and the prose of very high quality. The power of the words to enhance the images is striking.

Prof. Jonathan Andelson
Director, Center for Prairie Studies
Grinnell College, Iowa

I am fascinated by the photographs. While the title of the book is certainly accurate and appropriate I was continually drawn to the border skies as much as – sometimes more than – the border lands depicted in the images. I’ve thought that David Plowden was the master of depicting western skies; these images rival David’s in conveying the immensity and complexity of light, air, and weather across the northern plains. And, at least for me, the interaction of the skies with the earth resonated with Mark’s interest in time, especially with the way the plains simultaneously present themselves as immediate and eternal. The beautiful, ephemeral clouds and light reinforce the elegiac qualities of the weathered, often abandoned structures that punctuate the landscape, suggesting the natural forces that have worn against them, and also suggesting that above the stubbornly enduring buttes of the border there is a world that changes minute by minute.

The photographs invite contemplation. Like the land they depict, they’re quiet and uncrowded but reward close study… Mark’s texts… ground us in the experience behind their creation. I think the contrast between text and image, between the story of encountering people in history and in person and the experience seeing and recording the land is a wise choice.

Mark’s clear interest is in the way that the land has resisted being “settled” and “exploited” and how transient the settler or colonial imprint seems to be…Let me close by congratulating you on an outstanding accomplishment. Borderlands is a powerful and unique addition to artistic and cultural studies of the northern plains.

George Miles, William Robertson Coe Curator
Yale Collection of Western Americana
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

How to order this book

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