Jon Horvath: This Is Bliss
The intriguing monograph This Is Bliss, published by Yoffy Press, is a thorough and emotional exploration of the American dream. Focused on the small town of Bliss, Idaho, Jon Horvath gives viewers a full survey of the town, focusing on themes of desire, loss, legend, and serenity. Horvath’s images show his expertise in balancing the poetic narrative with the formal documentary exploration of place. The West is synonymous with masculine mythology of cowboys, freedom to start any life, and that if you just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you can achieve any wish. Horvath shows the reality of these ideals through a familiarity with a sense of the culture and people of Bliss. The images reveal an appreciation, understanding, and trust, where we catch glimpses of every day life through intimate portraits, soft actions, and discovered objects. The truth of the contemporary West is one of the fading American dream, but This Is Bliss shows romantic contentment of the American West.
The monograph itself weaves together a collection of mixed-media explorations Horvath created while working on this series. The images vary from traditional photographic explorations of place to wet-plate collodion typologies to poetry and more. Each new media study is introduced as a new expressive chapter, uncovering another feature of the town. The majority of the images offer unique perspectives on life, shifting between documentary, narrative, and metaphorical approaches. Horvath’s use of the typology gives an objective view of the place through found beer bottles, aircraft remnants, and senior quotes; these expertly contrast with the quieter moments of contemplation. This Is Bliss views the American West through an enchanted air, truly living up to its name.
This Is Bliss
The quiet kingdom of Bliss sleeps on a hill above the Snake River. It is dilapidated barns in fallow cornfields and white potato cellars stuffed with the future french fries of America. Cowboys ride their horses through the country as they guide their grazing cattle. The locals satiate their thirst at Jenny or Frank’s bars and fill their bellies at Ziggy’s Gas and Grill. Life in Bliss is simple, but not simplistic. Our hamlet is content, yet proud of our humble community and gracious natives, so we eagerly show it off to all who come and visit.
This Is Bliss is a transmedia narrative project investigating the vanishing roadside geography and culture of a rural Idaho town named Bliss. The project considers how mythologies of place and happiness collide, and are frequently confounded, in a location with a complex narrative of booms and busts that reflects the complicated history of American Idealism and Manifest Destiny. All that remains in Bliss is two gas stations, a school, a church, a diner, and two saloons to service its 300 current residents. Through a thorough look at the contemporary landscape and its residents, This Is Bliss contrasts romantic visions of the American West with its contemporary reality and considers how the heights of idealism are envisioned on both a personal and cultural level.
Jon Horvath is an interdisciplinary artist routinely employing systems-based strategies within transmedia narrative projects.He received his MFA in Photography from UW-Milwaukee in 2008, and a BAS in both English Literature and the History of Philosophy from Marquette University in 2001.Horvath’s work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group shows at venues including: The Print Center (Philadelphia), The Griffin Museum of Photography (Wincester, MA), FIESP Cultural Centre (Sao Paolo, Brazil), Gyeonggi Art Center (Suwon, SouthKorea), OFF Piotrkowska (Lodz, Poland), Newspace Center for Photography (Portland), the Haggerty Museum of Art (Milwaukee), INOVA (Milwaukee), Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Manifest Gallery (Cincinnati), Johalla Projects (Chicago), and The Alice Wilds (Milwaukee).His work is currently held in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Snite Museum of Art, and the Haggerty Museum of Art, and is included in the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Horvath currently teaches in the New Studio Practice program at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.
Follow Jon Horvath on Instagram: @jonhorvath
Follow Yoffy Press on Instagram: @yoffypress
Epiphany Knedler is an archiver of American life. As a lifelong Midwesterner, she uses images and mixed-media installation to explore social, political, and personal histories. She is inspired by the aesthetics and geopolitical landscapes of South Dakota, surveying the storied past of bold exploration and quiet melancholy. She graduated from the University of South Dakota in 2017 with a BFA in Studio Art and a BA in Political Science. She completed her MFA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography at East Carolina University in 2020. She is currently based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota serving as an online Adjunct Instructor across the nation. She has recently been selected as a Photolucida Critical Mass Finalist. Her work has recently been exhibited with the North Carolina Museum of Art, CAM Raleigh, and Lenscratch. She is the co-owner of Midwest Nice Art with her partner and collaborator, Tim Rickett.
Follow Epiphany Knedler on Instagram: @epiphanysk
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