by Mark Vitaris
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.
|Dimensions||12 × 12 × .875 in|
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.
Those of us whose concept of time and place is navigated with the click of a search engine have much to be grateful to Mark Vitaris and his beautiful new book Borderlands, published by Frontenac House.
Over 150 stunning black and white photographs, nuanced by short essays and commentary, take us on a journey through borderlands between the United States and Canada. But this is not a book about borderlands; it is about a wild landscape that has never recognized boundaries.
For his navigator, Vitaris draws on the 19th century American philosopher and psychologist William James who studied our shifting perception of time and developed the term “stream of consciousness.” Vitaris takes this as his roadmap, noting “The knowledge of some other part of the stream, past or future, near or remote, is always mixed in our knowledge of the present thing.”
It would be easy to create a book of familiar sentimental scenes of abandoned towns, barns, buildings and people. 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. He uses the “God-rays of light” to illuminate a creek bed, a distant barn, a clump of trees in ways that makes the eye follow the road and long to be there. In “Pendant d’Oreille” natural light floods into an abandoned room through an open door while in the distance the prairie hills seem to be gradually encroaching. His compositions are clear-eyed, flawless and evocative. This is a landscape that doesn’t tolerate sentimentality.
~ Donna Livingstone,
CEO, Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation and
Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies