I’m off to Santa Fe and the Southwest in 10 days, and while the trip planning (and the holidays) have consumed a great deal of my time, it’s worth it. My students and I will be visiting and photographing some of the most breathtaking areas in the world, and this image is an artifact from the last time I took students to the artists’ magic place.
In Arthur, Nebraska, exists the only surviving hay-bale church in America. Stucco on bales, the church is nearing its 100th anniversary, and unless you know where to go and where to look, it’s a unique piece of Great Plains culture unlike any other.
Upstairs, where the minister and his family lived, everything sits as it was more than a half-century ago when the church closed; this still life welcomed me, the diffused afternoon light softly flowing through the sheer curtains onto the water pitcher and basin, a bygone time and symbol of the loss of the Sand Hills life echoing quietly through the room.
I know, I know. Give it up with the Montrose church, already.
Oh, how I have a love affair with the Montrose Church.
And I think this image makes it clear why.
In an earlier post, I showed an image depicting the passage of time over the Montrose Catholic Church, and its small cemetery, which details another set of passages for the ranching families in the area. Today’s image is from inside the church, where a sparse interior, lack of running water, and no heat accompany parishioners beyond their greeting by the figures of the Virgin and Jesus Christ. The photo seems to exhibit barrel distortion from a wide angle lens, but this is an illusion: over its more than one hundred years, the floor of the building has sagged toward the outside walls, adding one more testament of years to which the building has borne silent witness.
The Montrose Catholic Church has no heat and no plumbing, but it is a focal gathering point for many of the ranch families in the back country of Sioux County. Time passes slowly here, and the long exposure of this image shows how the lonely structure and tiny cemetery have been silent observers to the myriad changes in the attending and adapting ranching families of the area for over 140 years.