Disarming the Prairieby Terry Evans, Tony Hiss
In Disarming the Prairie, noted landscape photographer Terry Evans offers haunting and hopeful images of the impact of America's military-industrial complex on the environment and the transformation of a former military base into a unique nature preserve and public recreation area. Located 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, the Joliet Army Arsenal was once the
In Disarming the Prairie, noted landscape photographer Terry Evans offers haunting and hopeful images of the impact of America's military-industrial complex on the environment and the transformation of a former military base into a unique nature preserve and public recreation area. Located 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, the Joliet Army Arsenal was once the world's largest TNT factory. Wartime security and safety measures demanded that the Joliet installation be surrounded by 19,000 acres of open lands farmlands, meadows, wetlands, and forest. Abandoned by the post-Cold War era military, the munitions plant and its vast prewar farmland and wilderness setting now has a new purpose. Inspired by the vision and efforts of environmentalists, preservationists, and Chicago-area residents, the federal government in 1997 transferred the land from the Department of the Army to the U.S. Forest Service and created Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
In her photographs of the Midewin Prairie, Terry Evans captures this moment of transformation, contrasting the decayed monuments of twentieth-century warfare with the pastoral beauty and historic structures preserved within the boundaries of the former installation. Through her evocative images of the arsenal (abandoned bunkers, disused railway tracks, crumbling factory buildings and offices) and the countryside around the base (tallgrass prairie, a blackbird's nest, grazing cattle, a meandering creek, as well as a prehistoric burial mound and a Civil War-era fieldstone fence), Evans explores one of this country's most troubling and least understood legacies the militarization of the American landscape. In his informative introduction, Tony Hiss notes that installations similar to the Joliet Arsenal were built across the United States during the Second World War and at the height of the Cold War, eventually occupying 30 million acres of land. Approximately 20 million acres (an area the size of Austria) remain under military control today, and the debate over what to do with the sprawling munitions factories for which the post-Cold War military has no further use has begun in earnest. Joliet's transformation to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie will serve as a model for future conversion of military lands into civilian use, and Terry Evans's photographic record of this change provides hope that renewal is possible.
What People are saying about this
Terry Evans's pictures combine the pleasures of picturesque beauty with a tempered awareness of mankind's destructive potential. Without compromising either truth or beauty, her photographs are instructive and unforgettable reminders of life's fragility and resilience.
Merry Foresta, Senior Curator of Photography, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
Ms. Evans has created for us an intelligent and meticulous record of Midewin's present moment -- a hushed, between-breaths pause in the life of a historic landscape. The military has moved on; the prairie healers are about to move in. At Midewin we see a place that is poised, waiting, at its turning point, about to flow back into the pattern it was diverted from but never quite deserted.
Tony Hiss, from the Introduction
Terry Evans is one of the few seasoned photographic artists to have mastered the mechanics of picture taking to the point that second nature takes over, freeing her to participate in conversations with her objects. These photographs allow us to listen in on those private conversations revealing truths a mere picture taker would be denied.
Wes Jackson, The Land Institute
Meet the Author
Terry Evans is a photgrapher who lives in Chicago. Her work has been exhibited in museums nationwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 1996, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her other books of photographs are Prairie: Images of Ground and Sky and the forthcoming The Inhabited Prairie. Tony Hiss writes frequently for the New Yorker and is the author of The Experience of Place, among other books.
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