His work is an archaeological dig where, without breaking ground, he explores the history of a place.
hat is dying is not dead, what is vanishing has not yet disappeared. Michael Sherwin’s Vanishing Points series challenges the limits of history by exploring the duality of place and presence. His work is an archaeological dig where, without breaking ground, he explores the history of a place. Sherwin’s work illustrates the profound and indelible marks left by a defeated people on the places they once inhabited so that by showing the now, he reveals what once was. The series, 25 photographs of places where Native American history and American expansion have collided, reveals the importance of history even while stripping a location of its native physical identity. Sherwin shows that it is not the physical manifestation of a site that matters; instead, it is the history that matters, leaving an impression felt by any who bear witness. Go to Gettysburg and stand between the twenty-foot boulders at the Devil’s Den. Allow your senses to adjust for a second and listen to the breeze rushing between the prehistoric citadel of rock formations. Feel the place, where 2,600 men hacked and shot
one another to death in a matter of some 12 hours. There are no bodies left to view, no rifles or canteens strewn about in the chaos of conflict, but you will feel the presence of that place’s history. It presses in on you. Michael Sherwin wants you to feel it in native histories. For example, Sherwin depicts the lingering presence of the Monongahela tribe in an unlikely place: the Suncrest Town Center, a development on the tribe’s historic land. Suncrest Town Center is a typical development, including a Buffalo Wild Wings and Jos A. Bank. Car exhaust lifts over the hum of vehicles on a monolithic concrete parking lot. Some 2,000 years ago the Monongahela people lived, played, held religious ceremonies, and buried their brothers, sisters and children here, a holy site now paved over. It is a major business development complex, essentially a shopping mall, in Morgantown, WV. The land was donated to West Virginia University by a wealthy Morgantown resident for use as an archaeological site. At one point Wal-Mart vetted the property; however, after the Army Corps of Engineers discov-
Suncrest Town Center, Morgantown, WV 2012 Right
Chickamunga Mound, Chattanooga, TN 2011
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