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
Schmidt & House recently returned from another excursion to the Wichita Mountains. Don took portraits–some arranged beforehand, others spur of the moment–, and I photographed mostly buildings and landscapes.
Geronimo High School
One of the most obvious but also difficult things I have learned about photography is acceptance of the unexpected. My paper houses project involved careful planning; yet, many of my favorite photos from the series came about because I happened to have a miniature house with me in the right place at the right time. Work on the Schmidt & House Wichita Mountains project has been following a similar approach of knowing what we want to do, but only to a certain extent. We map out some definite stops, put our equipment in the truck, and start driving, ready for whatever and whomever we will encounter on the road.
Still, we weren’t quite prepared for the aggressive pygmy rattlesnake we met on a hike at the end of the first day. It challenged us on a hill in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and refused to budge. That’s unusual behavior, even for a rattler. (Venomous snakes encountered in my fifteen years in the U.S. before meeting Don: one. Since meeting Don: I don’t even know. Life has become much more interesting.)
Wichitas sunset. Somewhere, a pygmy rattlesnake is awaiting us.
We made a planned stop at the Holy City so Don could take a portrait of the director. A friendly employee asked me if I wanted to try on an angel costume, and I hesitated for only a second. He led me to one of the prop rooms, where the costumes, Roman soldier helmets, a Judas effigy, and an infant Jesus doll for the annual Holy City passion play are stored, and fitted me with giant wings. I posed in a courtyard in a white gown with two wings made from white shag carpeting spreading out from my back. Don has Hasselblad evidence.
The Holy City: looking like Jerusalem since 1935.
Driving through an industrial section of Lawton a few days later, we noticed a nondescript building with a huge German flag and the sign “Mutti’s German Restaurant” on the front. It’s like being offered a chance to wear angel wings: you don’t turn it down. We went there for dinner the next evening. When we arrived an hour before closing, the place was almost empty. It looked exactly as I had imagined–posters of German tourist sites, garden gnomes, blue-and-white table cloths, and a long list of beers. The food was fantastic, probably the most authentic I’ve had outside of Germany. But my happy nostalgia ended during dessert. Twenty minutes past closing time, we had overstayed our welcome. In wonderfully, authentically German passive-aggressive manner, Mutti started vacuuming the restaurant. The American waitress apologized. We left. There is no photographic evidence.