Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb: The Great Open, Photographs from North Dakota

  • Date: Jun 3-9, 2023

This exhibition by creative partners Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb brings together two linked yet distinct photographic visions of North Dakota.

As a fellow Dakotan, Rebecca Norris Webb takes a poetic and intimatelook at the natural world of North Dakota. Her work often explores those places where the natural world and one’s inner landscape meet, especially during times of change, upheaval, and shifting weathers—both meteorological and metaphysical. Her storytelling serves as a map for when one’s loss seems to have its own geography, most notedly with her book and NDMOA exhibition, My Dakota: An Elegy for My Brother Who Died Unexpectedly. Drawn to the great openness of the mixed grass prairie and the broken, surreal beauty of the South Dakota badlands while grieving for her brother, Norris Webb began photographing in the North Dakota badlands. The badlands, too, felt like a kind of geography of grief for Theodore Roosevelt as a young man, who lost his mother and wife on the same day—of this moment he wrote: the “light went out of my life.” During this devastating time, Roosevelt moved to the North Dakota badlands, which slowly kindled his lifelong love of the Western landscape, as well as ultimately transforming him into “the conservationist president,” who would end up protecting some 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. Following a similar path, Norris Webb photographed other North Dakota landscapes resonant with loss and memory, including the Lincoln Drive Park, once home to some 350 residences lost in the 1997 Red River flood in Grand Forks; and the Fort Totten Historical Site, once an Indian boarding school, which was part of a former U.S. program designed “to kill the Indian” in tens of thousands of Native American children through forced assimilation practices. As she continued traveling across the state in August 2022, Norris Webb was guided by North Dakota’s ever-shifting light and weathers: from the dark stormy skies over a luminous yellow canola field near Starkweather—to the Gumbo Lilies near Medora, which bloom at night from the crevices of the badlands, only during those summers with enough rainfall.

Meanwhile, Alex Webb, raised predominantly in New England, has been described as a “shadow sociologist” by writer Pico Iyer. The author of some 20 books—including Amazon, Istanbul, La Calle: Photographs from Mexico, and the collaborative book and NDMOA exhibition Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba
with Rebecca Norris Webb—he has photographed in more than 50 countries and 200 cities around the world, sometimes commissioned by museums and other cultural institutions as well as such magazines as National Geographic, Geo, and The New York Times Magazine. Webb takes a more global and often urban approach to North Dakota. During two trips to the state in August 2019 and August 2022, he photographed in the parks, neighborhoods, and flea markets of the more populated cities and towns of the state, including Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Williston. He also photographed at various festivals and other events across the state, including the Icelandic Festival in Mountain, the Spirit Lake Professional Bull Riders on the Spirit Lake Reservation, the Morton County Fair and Rodeo in New Salem, and the Twin Buttes Powwow south of the Missouri River on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Additionally, Webb photographed neighborhood celebrations, which include some of the most recent residents in North Dakota, a state, which over the past decade, has resettled over 4,000 refugees, and, for several years, its total refugees per capita was the highest in the nation. In order to create a more multi-layered portrait of North Dakota, the creative couple have interwoven their work in this exhibition—powwows and sunflower fields, rodeos and buffalo herds, twilight street scenes and badlands nightscapes. The Great Open is their seventh collaboration, including projects about a country (Cuba), a city (Rochester, NY); a borough (Brooklyn); a town (Wellfleet, MA); and now a state (North Dakota).

More Info:

Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb: The Great Open, Photographs from North Dakota Map

Contact Information

261 Centennial Drive
Grand Forks, North Dakota