The human heart… in a state of bewilderment, doesn’t want to answer questions so much as to lengthen the resonance of those questions. -Fanny Howe

I return to the subject of loss—the way it overlays failure and entropy. Loss mediated by the inadequacy of language, quantification, and cognition. The Midwest is the locus for my exploration of intractable tragedy and crises of understanding the self in relation to the external. This drama is not unique to the Corn and Rust Belts, but the location feels vernacular to me. My artistic practice circles around the colloquial language as it is written, spoken, and made material.

I spent most of my childhood moving around the Midwest. More than the apartments and houses I lived in, I remember sitting in the back of a decaying Chrysler traversing a landscape in the cycles of agriculture and watching the steel mills around the Great Lakes slouch into rust. My other constant was the homely interiors of Midwestern churches where I discovered that the aura of sanctity flowed through the class spectrum, from papal silks to sweaty polyester. These inherited histories of labor, landscape, and religion offer a venue to study the frail morality that paradoxically affirms humanity. In a region shaped by opportunism, there must also be the possibility and causation of intemperate, unmercenary love.

To be American is to be haunted. Not 150 years ago flocks of passenger pigeons blacked out the prairie sky in a river of wings. The firmament over the grasslands is still enfolding, volatile, and wondrous, but it holds a heavy void in the wake of American expansion. There is an insistence and impermanence to the American landscape. It is unwilling to be made passive in the telling of a story. It demands recognition and autonomy, the ability to affect change and be changed. The land becomes as much a character as the dying lover. Just as a place is haunted by an individual, I feel the ghost of the plains and the ghost of the mountains. The specters of the frontier and the West have outlasted any permutation of the landscape they described. America is haunted by Colonialism and Puritanism, war and industry. History flows through the hollows left by their bones.

I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave. -Breece D’J Pancake