Terry Evans: Matfield Green Stories

August 20 - November 27, 2011
Polk/Wilson galleries

Matfield Green is the focus of the most recent extended project by Terry Evans. The small town is nestled in the Kansas Flint Hills with a population of fewer than 50. Between 1990 and 1998 and again from 2008 to 2010, Evans photographed town residents and the enduring beauty of the land. Her eloquent images convey an arresting and poetic story of the prairie. Numerous models exist for how a photographer captures images to express a particular setting. One striking example involved esteemed photographer Walker Evans. In 1936 he and writer James Agee spent three weeks in Alabama, where they lived with rural sharecroppers. Their project resulted in the 1941 book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, an American classic on rural poverty during the Great Depression. The artists were foreign to their subject and gained access to its reality through a full-immersion experience. Evans' ambitious project in Matfield Green clearly followed a different method, and photographer Eugène Atget provides a more relevant tradition. Atget lived in turn-of-the-century Paris and recorded the transition as ancient Paris faded and a modern metropolis emerged. Atget's extended project reflects his keen eye for poignant detail and strong humanism as he conveyed a remarkable story about place.

Matfield Green could be considered Evans' Paris. Her portrait of this community knits within a larger, lifelong project devoted to the prairie experience. She isn't a roaming
photographer seeking the exotic. She shares the locals' reverence for the land as a Missouri native and decades-long Kansas resident. Evans finds poetry in the commonplace. Importantly, she relates the unusual as well as the homespun, and a richer picture results. Upon viewing image after striking image, museum visitors will grasp the crux of Terry Evans' prairie story of small-town life in rural Kansas.
Terry Evans is best known as a landscape photographer of Midwestern topography. When the Nature Conservancy rounded up the leading photographers for a 2001 project on the last great places, Evans was in the elite roster with Annie Liebovitz, Lee Friedlander, Sally Mann, and esteemed others. The Guggenheim Foundation gave her its prestigious artist award in 1996. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is now working on the artist’s retrospective for 2012.

Terry Evans: Matfield Green Stories has been organized by the Ulrich Museum of Art and generously supported by Spirit AeroSystems, Emprise Bank and Fleeson Gooing Attorneys at Law.

The exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of Richard D. Smith and Sondra Langel,
Ed and Helen Healy, Rex and Denise Irwin, Ron and Lee Starkel and Keith and Georgia Stevens.

Downloadable PDF of the Terry Evans gallery guide

Terry Evans, 'Watering Hole,' 2009, archival pigment print, 38 by 38 inches, collection of the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. Museum purchase

Terry Evans, 'I-35 through the Flint Hills,' 1994. Archival pigment print, 44 x 44 in. Collection of the artist

Gallery Guide for 'Terry Evans: Matfield Green Stories,' August 2011