Monday, November 22, 2010

In the Heartland

Tri Point Column, 2010

I was in Omaha, Nebraska last week. Omaha might not be the exact geographic center of the continental United States; that’s a couple of hundred miles to the southwest. But it’s close enough to be reliably considered “heartland.” I was in Omaha to get a taste of the heartland’s feelings about health care reform.

When I first started traveling to Omaha to do research, people were wont to quote the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey (champion of the “And now, the rest of the story” and Interstate Batteries). Today they quote Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. It would be unfair to assess a whole city on the basis of just the few dozen people I spoke with. But let’s just say that when it comes to compassionate conservatism, the people I met are all too happy to throw your grandma under the bus.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. This was a busy trip, one that left little time for personal photography. But I made the best of that time and, not having done any homework about potential photographic subjects ahead of time, had to forage for what material I could find along the road between the airport and the place where I was working.

Fortunately, Omaha has interesting photographic material along that road. One of the first things you see when you leave the Omaha airport (which is actually in Iowa) is an incongruously placed piece of sculpture on the south side of the road along a rather desolate stretch of undeveloped flood plain that looks like it’s waiting to become an office park.

Only it hasn’t. At least over the twenty-five years I’ve been going to Omaha this stretch hasn’t sprouted anything more ambitious than a gasoline plaza, a “gentleman’s club” and a cluster of budget chain hotels. (One imagines all kinds of upright Omaha men telling their wives, “Don’t worry, honey. I’m just going to a Rotary meeting in Iowa. What trouble could I get into there?”)

But there, right on the side of the road with nothing more than an accumulating pile of trash to keep it company is Tri Point Column, a 50’ tall sculpture made up of welded triangular sheets of steel plate. It was created by Idaho-based artist Rod Kagan.

I’ve always thought Tri Point Column was intended to be the centerpiece for some kind of commercial development. But there’s no sign of that being the case. The little stub street that approaches the work does nothing but lead you around its base and then back to the main road. There’s no sign for a larger development or even to identify the work itself.

Tri Point Column In Situ, 2010

But if you don’t mind walking into some weeds and standing on a rusty steel grate over a concrete pond than forms its base, Tri Point Column is a wonderful subject for photography. All those triangles make for interesting photo opportunities. And just a step in any direction completely changes the view.

Tri Point Column – The Hawk, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Wow--who'da thunk. Doesn't seem to fit with what you described of the area, but it's wonderful. I've not seen it. Love your photos here!