Audrey Kenison

Almost since the time of its inception, photography has sought to document, configure, and mythologize the American West. From the road trip, to the industrial hub, to the suburb, Americana has been rendered through photographic representations and established a collectivized mundane, what I like to call the “American Imaginary.” Why should our notions of the All-American end with the mid-20th century? There is both a continuity and a fragmentation involved in retracing the American West in 2020. A train seems to move in a straight line, but track its patterns and it reveals a cycle. What seems familiar, natural, even redundant, requires the most questioning. Though the documentation of the American landscape is perhaps the most crowded genre in photography, the urgency of 2020, just like the upheaval of the 1970s, has left a new space in the archive.

Spokane, WA was the catalyst for and the site of my explorations into the realm of Americana. Its connection to the railroad industry and its sprawling suburban-rural structure spoke to a perspective that contrasted the responses coming from urban centers. Isolation was foregrounded there. From its seemingly mundane facades emanated an eerie undertone that spoke to a shared alienation and uncertainty. If the events of 2020 taught us anything, it was how to see, that is, its disruptions shed a light on our ideas of normalcy. It held a mirror up to our absurdity. Society and all its machinations were part of a collective revelation—anything that seemed beyond question was suddenly anything but naturalized.

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Instagram: @audrey_ken