At the turn of the twenty-first century, Mary Lucier began to visit North Dakota, traveling across seasons and time, venturing into the far northwest corner of the state, almost to Montana, almost to Saskatchewan. The North Dakota Museum of Art had commissioned her to respond to the population shifts that are forcing the people of the Northern Plains to reimagine their lives. Seismic change has swept away family farms and ranches, small towns and rural schools. The land is now occupied by agri-business with its massive machinery, global positioning systems for precision crop management, worldwide marketing networks, and government safety nets. The lone farmer, the cowboy, crews of custom combiners, migrant workers and field hands gradually move on. The remains of that earlier life dot the landscape like the skeletons of fish washed up on far distant shores. The Plains of Sweet Regret is the artist’s answer.
Mary Lucier’s eighteen-minute, five-channel video installation employs four video projections, two plasma screens, surround sound, and various rescued objects and artifacts. With these she creates the experience of moving through the landscape, across the Prairies and the Plains, into the birthing pens and the rodeo arenas, and, finally, back into the West of the imagination—the West, which, if it ever existed, lies in ruins. Through this breathtakingly beautiful work of art, Mary Lucier enters the lives of the inhabitants of North Dakota and, through art, transforms their experience into myth—undeniably the most authentic human experience of all.
Full essay available in catalog by NDMOA.