Nate Larson: The States Project: Maryland
It has only taken me eleven years, but I think that I am finally going to get to introduce Nate Larson to some folks that might not already know who he is. For all the hundreds of people he has made the polite effort to acquaint me to, it feels good to put the spotlight on my dear friend and his newest work. I came to Baltimore because of an offer by Nate to join his duckpin bowling team, but the catch was that I would technically have to become a member of the faculty at MICA to make that official. Rules are rules. Having a colleague and friend like Nate, who is the hardest worker I have ever known, is good for my psyche, it keeps me motivated. We joke that one should #NeverLookAtNateLarsonsResume unless you want to feel lazy, but really it is a reminder to stay motivated. Despite his busyness, Nate will always grab a beer, play boardgames, talk about art or bad television, and hop in the car on a ridiculous adventure. He brings so many of the Maryland artists together through personal friendship and the many projects that he takes part in around the region. With his recent photographs, Nate has dedicated himself to a social documentary framework in which to explore a fascinating swath of America and demonstrate how exploring archives and locations allow photography to become a witness and participant in the discursive understanding of our world.
Nate Larson is a contemporary artist and a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. His projects have been widely shown across the US and internationally as well as featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including Wired, The Guardian, The Picture Show from NPR, Slate, CNN, Hyperallergic, Gizmodo, Buzzfeed News, Vice Magazine, the New York Times, Utne Reader, the BBC News Viewfinder, the British Journal of Photography, The Washington Post, and many others. His artwork is included in the collections of the High Museum Atlanta, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Orlando Museum of Art, Portland Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago.
The Centroid, or mean center of population, is “the point at which an imaginary, flat, weightless, and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if weights of identical value were placed on it so that each weight represented the location of one person on the date of the census.” The United States Census Bureau calculates this point each census, beginning in 1790 near Chestertown, Maryland. The point has moved steadily westward, currently residing near Plato, Missouri after the 2010 census. The path mirrors the population growth of our nation, following the routes of settlement from the Atlantic to the interior. It also mirrors my personal history, linking my current home in Maryland to my Midwestern roots in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.
This body of photographic work traces the path, closely examining the twenty-five cities and towns nearest the coordinates, partnering with local communities and drawing from local historical archives. I am working to make a portrait of these towns, once symbolically the center of our nation, now largely overlooked. These photographs highlight the differences between the abstraction of big data and personal stories told one on one.
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