We’re Not Telling You Everything, our exhibition about the Wichita Mountains, is moving to a beautiful Arkansas mountain in August. Don House and I will show our photography and Sy Hoahwah will have his poems at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. Located on top ofPetit Jean Mountain in central Arkansas, the Institute’s grounds used to be part of Governor Rockefeller’s cattle ranch. We love visiting this unique spot and are thrilled to have our exhibition in the historic Show Barn Hall. We’ll be at the Institute to install our work next week, and I’m looking forward to exploring the farm and watching the sunset from the edge of the mountain after we’re done. The Institute is hosting an opening reception on Thursday, August 3, from 3 to 4:30 pm, and we’ll be doing an artist talk/exhibition walk-through during the event. The reception is free, but guests are asked to pre-register. The members of the marketing team at the Rockefeller Institute have been wonderful. I love the “posters” they created for Don, Sy, and me (click on the images to read the captions):
We are showing We’re Not Telling You Everything: Words and Images from the Wichita Mountains at the Argenta Branch Library in North Little Rock from May 19 to June 9. Our photography exhibition also features poems by Little Rock poet Sy Hoahwah. The opening reception takes place during Argenta Art Walk on May 19 from 5 to 8 pm. On Saturday, May 20, we will lead an exhibition walkthrough; Sy will read from his poetry. The event starts at noon.
We’re Not Telling You Everything is the result of a three-year collaboration. Don House created 16 classic black-and-white portraits and is showing them as traditional silver-gelatin prints. Sabine Schmidt’s 13 digital color images of human interactions with the landscape are presented as archival pigment prints. All were made during frequent visits to the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma. The seven poems by Sy Hoahwah offer a different perspective: A member of the Comanche Nation, Hoahwah has a connection to the Wichitas that spans generations.
The photographers were drawn to the area by its history, its landscape, and its people. It is the place where some of the last Indian wars were fought. The first national wildlife refuge was created here to save the bison. It is the home of Army’s Fort Sill training base, the location of a gold rush, and the final resting place of Native American leaders Geronimo and Quanah Parker. It is a microcosm of the history of the nation and its westward expansion.
One of the oldest but least-known mountain ranges in North America, the Wichitas rise up from the plains around Lawton, near the Texas border. They stretch only about 40 miles from east to west, but they hold a central position in the history and lives of Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, and other plains tribes. Fort Sill shares a winding fence through the mountains with the wildlife refuge. Ranchers and wheat farmers, amusement park owners, retirees, soldiers, waitresses, preachers, rangers, locals, and strangers all make their homes in the shadows of the ancient granite mountains.
Location: Argenta Branch, William F. Laman Public Library, North Little Rock
Dates: May 19-June 9, 2017
Opening Reception: Friday, May 19, 5-8 pm
Exhibition Walkthrough and Poetry Reading: Saturday, May 20, noon-1pm
Time does not stand still along the Buffalo, but anyone who has spent some of it there might beg to differ. The river gives many hints of a chronological nature – watch beers-in-cozies canoeists lined up at the Ponca low water bridge, then walk a hundred meters into the woods in any direction and trip over the remains of pre-civil war cabins, or the chert flakes along the paths that take us back even further. Most of we visitors require assistance in deciphering the clues, and the mandatory textbooks were both written by Kenneth L. (Ken) Smith: The Buffalo River Country (1967) and The Buffalo River Handbook (2004).
Ken eloquently tells us exactly who these chert-knappers and cabin builders were, what life was like on the banks and benches of the river valley, and he does us a favor by not allowing us to fall into that trap of believing that time of any consequence began with the arrival of white Europeans, or even of the arrival some 12,000 years before them, of the first humans to inhabit the continent. Ken reminds us of geologic time and how it has shaped the nation’s National River. Is it any surprise that when Sabine Schmidt and I heard that documentary filmmaker Chris Engholm (see links below) was working on a project to highlight Ken’s river trail building legacy as well, that we begged to attend, cameras in hand?
So we threw a couple of sleeping bags, extra sweaters, apples, almonds, olives and a few canteens of water into the truck and headed toward Tyler Bend and the base camp of a few of the crew of volunteers that have dedicated years to helping Ken. It didn’t take long to realize that while they came from many parts of the country, and represented a host of professions and careers, what they and we had in common was a love and respect for Ken Smith, and a gratitude for what he is doing and has done.
I felt like a fraud as we walked the benches – I was the only one who wasn’t actually digging or raking or cutting or moving debris. I just hiked and kept my eyes on Ken, watched his movements as he led the party, kicking sticks and rocks to the side, flipping dead branches off the trail with a walking stick, giving orders, telling stories. And I was doing my own time-travel, thinking about walking behind him thirty years ago, noting his rhythm for the first time, and about sitting then on a gravel bar with my young children, reading aloud the Buffalo River Country, and just last year sitting on the same bar with the children of my children and reading the Handbook.
I also watched Chris Engholm working, moving in and out with his video equipment, recording sounds, conversations, asking leading questions, trying to be in the right place at the right time with the right light. I didn’t envy his task. How in the hell could Ken Smith be summarized?
Documentary filmmaker Chris Engholm somewhere on the Buffalo National River
This morning, as the crew prepared to go out again, Chris asked Sabine for some assistance in translating a letter he had found in relation to another of his projects – an exhibition of photographs and historical texts relating to Hugo and Gayne Preller – photographers working along the White River near Augusta, Arkansas, at the turn of the last century. Hugo was a German immigrant and had received a letter from his sister in 1938, from Berlin. Chris hoped that it might contain information about the Preller family and Hugo’s decision to cross the Atlantic and wind up in Arkansas.
Sabine carefully unfolded the thin paper to reveal an exquisite older style cursive handwriting and began to slowly translate the lines, one by one, her voice a direct channel to the past. I reached for my camera to record that moment: A recent German
Photographer Sabine Schmidt and filmmaker Chris Engholm.
immigrant photographer is sitting on the banks of the Buffalo National River in 2016. In her hands is a letter from 1938 written to another German photographer who had immigrated to Arkansas in the late 1800s. And only a few meters away, Ken Smith, who has been instrumental in the battle to save the Buffalo River, a tributary of the White, and who has dedicated much of his working life to protecting it, studying it, recording the stories of the people who lived along it, and making it more accessible and meaningful to even more people, is gathering his tools for another day’s work. Time stood still.
© Don House
March 30, 2016
For more information on the work of Chris Engholm:
To purchase copies of Ken Smith’s books:
Our exhibition at Fayetteville Underground in November was well-received. We loved the chance to interact with visitors at our two artist talks. While we prefer to stay behind the camera and out of the spotlight, it was great fun to talk about our work in the Wichitas and share stories with our audiences.
The exhibition is crated and ready to travel to other venues (we’ll announce future shows here and on social media).
The new year began with a most enjoyable e-mail interview conducted by Payton Christenberry of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (one of my favorite places in Arkansas). We got to talk about what we do and why but also about our thoughts and ideas regarding the arts in Arkansas. As the first installment of a new monthly series highlighting Arkansas artists, our interview went up in February.
And we just found out that we have been nominated as a team in the “Favorite Photographer” category of the Idle Class Magazine‘s 2016 Black Apple Awards, a series of awards honoring artists and artisans in Arkansas. If you like what we do, please vote for us on the Idle Class’ website before April 10. Thank you!
The opening reception for We’re Not Telling You Everything was a great success. Many old and new friends braved an Oklahoma-strength thunderstorm that seemed to roll in out of nowhere just as the reception was about to begin. Maybe it added some extra energy–there were lots of spirited conversations, laughter, and hugs in the galleries. We gave an artists’ talk discussing the Wichita Mountains project, and our friend, the photographer and curator Chris Engholm, filmed it. He was kind enough to post an edited version:
We will do another, more extensive gallery talk on November 22, but before we prepare for that and other projects, we are taking a short break to go hiking in the Ozarks, catch up on correspondence, weeks of New Yorkers, and some TV shows, and pet the dog.
We’re getting pretty excited over here in Hazel Valley. Our exhibition at the Fayetteville Underground opens next week, and we’ll start hanging the show on Monday. We have postcards, we have catalogues, we have text panels providing some background information–and we hope to have many friends at the opening reception.
Here’s Sabine checking proofs for some of her color images. The final prints are 20×30 inches!
… but Don House and I will be showing you our new work at Fayetteville Underground in November. It’s a showcase of the three years we spent visiting the Wichita Mountains region in southwest Oklahoma. We’re Not Telling You Everything is the title of our exhibition, and it was inspired by a place we visited there.
A catalog with images from the exhibition will be available at the Underground. The exhibition opening is part of the First Thursday reception on November 5, 2015, between 5 and 9 pm and will include an artists talk in the gallery. Later in the month, we’ll be offering a more extensive walk and talk about the exhibition. Here’s a preview:
“For three years, photographers Don House and Sabine Schmidt traveled to southwest Oklahoma to photograph the land and the people of the Wichita Mountains. The mountains—among the oldest but least known in North America—rise up from the plains like a beacon for shelter, water, and nourishment.
A small range, the Wichitas stretch only about 40 miles from east to west, but they hold a central position in the history and lives of Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, and other plains tribes. The Fort Sill military installation shares a winding fence through the mountains with one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the country. Ranchers and wheat farmers, amusement park owners, retirees, soldiers, waitresses, preachers, rangers, locals and strangers all make their homes in the shadows of the ancient granite mountains.
Don House created classic black-and-white portraits with his Hasselblad. Sabine Schmidt is showing color images of human interactions with the landscape.”
Join us on First Thursday at the Underground and ask us anything–we may tell, after all.