George Caleb Bingham painted romantic scenes of life on the Missouri River in the 1800s. When the Amon Carter Museum of American Art planned its current show on Bingham, museum leaders decided to add a modern take on Bingham’s iconic subject. They commissioned Chicago photographer Terry Evans to capture life on The Trinity River. Her exhibition, “Meet Me At The Trinity” is on display now. Evans tells KERA’s Anne Bothwell that the Trinity was not what she expected.
- Terry Evans speaks about “Meet Me At The Trinity” Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
- Listen to the conversation that aired on KERA FM
Excerpts and extras from our chat:
On preparing for the commission: It was hard to prepare for it. I find it really difficult to prepare for a landscape project until I get there. Of course I did a lot of research about the history of the Trinity River, and I looked at maps and I talked to people. But it wasn’t really until I was there, because I need to be able to respond to the place in person, to what I see.
Coming from Chicago – and Lake Michigan, any expectations for the Trinity? The thing that worried me is that my experience in photographing rivers is that rivers, at least in the Midwest, tend to look a lot alike. There’s a lot of homogeneity about them. And of course the Trinity is not like that at all. It looks really different. In some ways I was disappointed it was so highly engineered, and I couldn’t imagine it would attract people for recreational purposes. And on the other hand, it’s unique because it is so highly engineered and channelled and it has its own unique appearance. And I discovered I was quite wrong about people not being attracted to the river. Fort Worth people are very attracted to the Trinity River and have a lot of interactions in a lot of ways.
On why there is relatively little water in her photographs: My real interest is in the relationships between people and their own home landscape and how those things are woven together. So I was most of all interested in photographing people and how they used, or connected with, the river. I found the Trinity River attracts a very democratic mix of people. I photographed everyone from a homeless man under a bridge to very comfortable people in hi tech gear walking and bicycling the river to families having picnics. I found a real diversity of people using the river. This was very impressive to me.
On the graffiti in one image, “Where Does Nature Fit Into This?” That was the very last shot. It was just a kind of serendipity. Because that is of course what I had been thinking about the whole time during this project. How does nature fit into this? Because the Trinity River is so highly engineered and channeled. And sometimes I was wondering about what the real natural course of the river was. It didn’t have that old fashioned romantic look of a river with lots of weeping willows on the edges or lots of natural paths. When I came upon that sign, it seemed like the perfect closing to the show. But what I really felt was that nature did fit in in a big way. The river is highly managed yet it is still offered to the people of Fort Worth. There are many ways a person can interact with the Trinity River.
On how this project compares with other work: My work about landscape started out being about the untouched virgin prairie ecosystem and it moved gradually over time to including people. The main thing that has changed for me is that over time I began to see the degradation and industrialization of the landscape. I just finished a long project in North Dakota with my project partner for that work, Elizabeth Farnsworth, about fracking in North Dakota. I came away from that feeling quite discouraged about what was happening to the landscape. And so photographing the Trinity was really more inspiring to me, it was uplifting. I found a place where people really cared about the river and develop it and make a strong presence in this city. And I found many people enjoying themselves at the river. It was a great respite for me to do this project.