Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Dust Bowl and the 1930s

I just started reading The Worst Hard Time, a National Book Award winner by Timothy Egan. It chronicles the Dust Bowl experience of the 1930s. For some reason that decade has really captured my attention of late. When one looks at this period in U.S. history, it's incredibly rich, whether one focuses on politics, sports, entertainment, economics, or art. It's as if the Great Depression represented this incredible petri dish in which our whole society was "cooked" as if in a giant lab experiment.
As an artist and photographer I'm primarily interested in the artistic responses of the period. Think of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans among the photographers . . . Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Demuth, Scheeler, among the painters. And if one looks for a common denominator among these artists, and among some of the writers of the day - including Agee and Steinbeck - they often focused their work the so-called "Heartland," that region encompassing the Plains states. Why that region? Even today that area seems to garner considerable attention. In the last year, National Geographic did a feature article on the Plains states and the New York Times ran a series of articles on the depopulation of Plains states communities.

More on this subject - and the 1930s - on a later date.

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