The Myth of the West
Download Thesis paper (4.3 MB)
Thesis Committee Chair
Laurie Blakeslee, MFA
Thesis Committee Members
Caroline Earley, MFA
Lily Lee, MFA
My work is a confrontation of The American West that has been bound by a myth that features a frontiersman on the edge of civilization. There are numerous examples of this myth embodied in film, literature, and artistic representations. However, there are problems with this myth; a narrative that has become embedded in our national psyche to enshrine regressive attitudes about race, gender, and disparity in America.
The story of the West, as seen in the movies and outlined in literature, often neglects to consider the experience and viewpoint of the “other”; it fails to account for the voices of marginalized groups, including indigenous people and women. Ultimately, the doctrine of Manifest Destiny—the 19th century belief that American expansion across the North American continent was both inevitable and pre-ordained—has become a modern story of hyper-masculinity and Anglo-American superiority that works to secure the white male identity by romanticizing ideals of domestication, control, and conquest.
As a woman, an Idahoan, and an artist, my work confronts this troublesome, suppressive, and problematic cultural narrative through method, process and material. I work to highlight materials that I encountered growing up in the west—materials most familiar to me that tend to exist in realms of work and trade dominated by characteristics of masculinity, authority, domination, and control. Such materials include barbed wire, wood fencing, whips, rusted nails, fluorescent flagging tape and rock anchor bolts. Manipulating these materials in form and process through methods such as knitting, braiding, and cutting, I challenge the myth.
Pope, Margaret, "The Myth of the West" (2021). 2021 MFA Visual Arts. 1.