36.1540° N, 95.9928° W

Tulsa, OK

We Belong to the Land

MFA Thesis Project, 2017
The final year and half of my 3-year MFA program at OU, was devoted to one single project titled ‘We Belong to the Land.’

The project was intended to highlight the fact that we often treat the land like consumers, disregarding the long-term consequences. This leads to the loss of the natural landscape and careless development that is focused more on profitability than on preservation and community.

The title of the project was derived from the 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, in which American author and environmentalist Aldo Leopold wrote, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

The primary artifact of the project was a 132-page book entitled ‘The Atlas of Anti-destinations.’It is a book about places you probably wouldn’t normally visit and why they are important. Anti-destinations are the natural places, the quiet places, the dark places–the places in the most jeopardy of having their very character compromised by the spread of urbanization. The book was intended to acquaint (or reacquaint) readers with the areas that would typically be blank spots on the map in hopes that they will see the value in these locations and be motivated to preserve and protect them.

The second component of the project was a print booklet entitled ‘The Middle of Everywhere.’ The book is intended to offer a vignette into some of the more natural settings of our state. Every image within the book has a corresponding set of coordinates, giving viewers a sense of specificity of place. If viewers feel that they could personally benefit from quiet, open settings with fresh air and minimal distractions, then they might use the coordinates to seek out these destinations, or other places like them.

Early on in the project I had the idea of using sound as a metaphor for the spread of urbanization.“A Mechanized Choir” was an 8 “song” auditory analogy depicting mankind’s steady assault on silence. The tracklist represents our ongoing transition to urbanization. Side A begins with 4 tracks representing the mostly natural sounds of a rural setting, and each subsequent track moves you ten miles closer to the man-made soundscape of urban life on side B.

The project culminated in a month-long thesis exhibition at Mainsite in Norman, Oklahoma. Visitors were asked to do their part to add value to the land-community by planting the provided tree seeds or seedlings.


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