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The North American Landscape

In this photographic series I am questioning how the history of the North American landscape comes to be known and perceived through the education of our children. The small plastic toy trees in this series act as stand-ins for the landscape of North America. Toys have the power of teaching children about history and the world around them. These toy trees represent the areas American Indians continue to inhabit on this continent.

The title for this body of work is The North American Landscape in reference to photographer Edward Curtis’s early 20th century epic series of portraits and landscapes entitled “The North American Indian.” I have culled through all of Curtis’s landscape photographs and used them as an archive resource in order to associate each tribe with the identified tree types of their land. I then gave the plastic toy trees titles that are in reference to these tribes.

Toys throughout history have been essential to a child’s learning and intellectual growth. Children learn about their environment through play, gaining new information about cause and effect, communication, manipulation, and problem-solving life skills. These inanimate objects have a cognitive force that defies their innocent appearance. Toys depicting Native Americans allow children an imagined power over land and people. Through play children often invent worlds that do not exist. This series gives them an understanding of the history of this land and its original people.

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