Current DisplayLedyard Gallery:
Corrugated Barn by Rich Perry
Route 66 in Oklahoma – What Once Was As It Is Now
An Exhibition of Photographs by Rich Perry
Saturday, February 27th through Wednesday, April 27
Reception Saturday, February 27 from 2-4pm
Photographer Rich Perry writes:
While Route 66 has inspired music, movies, various pieces of literature, art, and even a television show, it is John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, the story of the Joad family’s migration across Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s, that captures the true history and power of that road. Steinbeck’s uses the road as metaphor for the suffering of the farmers whose land was turned into a bleak dustbowl by overuse and poor land management encouraged by an unknowing government and exploited by avaricious bankers and greedy agricultural corporations. Farmers were forced off the land and headed west to what they envisioned as a land of plenty and their salvation. I have read this book six times and still find the depiction of the overwhelming oppression by the powerful appalling and the strength, determination and struggle of the farm workers to survive with hope for a better life to be inspiring.
It was on this road that the struggles, hardships, starvation, and deaths of many farm workers occurred. It was there that the workers came together to face their hardships, shared with others what very little food they had, helped each other bury the many who they watched die of starvation and disease, and began the talk of political organizing. The road became a metaphor for the violent struggle between the laborers and the owners, the government and the people it was supposed to protect, and avarice and greed instead of human compassion.
The road also opened up the west to travelers, served as the main artery for transporting military troops and equipment to the west coast during World War II, and connected Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, and was the road on which the seeds of unrest and organizing of the common worker were planted and nurtured through the difficult struggle to survive.
Route 66 has now spawned tourist attractions, a myriad of fast food restaurants (interestingly, the first drive through restaurant and the first MacDonald’s were on it), and a representation of the gaudy commercialism of the present day. However, fortunately not all of the history of the Mother Road is gone. There are still original buildings in the small towns and villages in Oklahoma that were the essence of US Route 66. Time has taken its toll on many of them while others have been kept up as usable space often serving the same function as the original intent. These reflect what life was and in some ways still is on the original road. The spirit and history of the people and their quest lives on and is accessible to those of us who look closely for it. That is what this portfolio honors. It captures the spirit, determination, and history that contributed so much to the building of this country.
I needed to photograph the highway and the communities that inspired what is arguably the quintessential American novel and in my own way to honor the strength, determination, and courage of the farm workers who endured such suffering. It is my attempt to portray visually what Steinbeck so powerfully captured in words.
Display Cases in May:
Cafe Area Case: Howe Library "Expand Your World" collection.
Teen Area Case: Hanover High School student pottery.
Ledyard Gallery in June: Paintings, collages, and prints by Lynda Knisley.