The Way Out West
Distributed for Columbia College Chicago Press
Traveling from California, Nevada, and Utah through to Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, Van Parys trains her camera’s penetrating gaze on the hard-edged natural beauty of the West—and its constantly changing contemporary identity. Whether documenting the glitter of the ever-expanding metropolises of Phoenix and Las Vegas or the quiet reserve of Monument Valley, Van Parys’s images, she explains, seek to “juxtapose nineteenth-century notions of the sublime landscape with the way in which we live on the land today, thereby drawing attention to our uneasy alliance with the natural world.” Essays by Lucy Lippard and Geoffrey Batchen build upon Van Parys’s images, arguing that she puts forth a wholly original visual narrative that depicts the American West from a thought-provoking new perspective. Van Parys’s photographic journey ultimately reveals that the West is still a place of renewal and reinvention, a theater of clashes and compromises between human enterprise and nature’s limits, set against the unyielding backdrop of desert and bush.
“Driving along the highways and byways of the Southwest and Interior West, Van Parys has noticed things that you or I might otherwise consider too trivial, too banal, to be worthy of further examination. Fortunately for us, Van Parys has taken the time to stop and line up her camera and take a photograph. By doing so, she makes us see things that would otherwise remain unseen. The final result is a poignant commentary not only on the desert landscapes to be found ‘out west,’ but also on the act of seeing the American West.”