Brandon Sward at Stone House / Charlotte

How the West Was Lost
Brandon Sward

October 11 – 31, 2021

Stone House Art House

9011 Mt. Holly Rd.
Charlotte, USA

All images courtesy and copyright of the gallery and artist. Photos by Kilee Price.

Stone House Art Gallery is pleased to present new work by scholar and artist Brandon Sward in his first solo exhibition, How the West Was Lost. The exhibition in its present state displays the aftermath of a performance enacted by Sward, wherein he embodies a cowboy character using objects left behind at the Montana ranch of his late great uncle. The eight objects are displayed on two handmade racks made from semi-rotten wooden planks and construction nails, and are accompanied by a video of Sward’s performance with them. In the video, Sward dons his great uncle’s chaps and rancher attire while using the tools to interact with bales of straw in the gallery. By the end of the video, a single bale has been decimated and scattered throughout the space, having been straddled, whipped, stabbed, dragged, slept on, and danced through. The result uses material trace to explore relationships between gender, the family, and the afterlives of the American frontier in our national imagination

“From the conditions of frontier life came intellectual traits of profound importance. The works of travelers along each frontier from colonial days onward describe certain common traits, and these traits have… persisted as survivals in the place of their origin, even when a higher social organization succeeded. The result is that to the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom—these are the traits of the frontier… For a moment, at the frontier, the bonds of custom are broken and unrestraint is triumphant… each frontier did indeed furnish a new field of opportunity, a gate of escape from the bondage of the past; and freshness, and confidence, and scorn of older society, impatience of its restraints and its ideas, and indifference to its lessons, have accompanied the frontier. What the Mediterranean Sea was to the Greeks, breaking the bond of custom, offering new experiences, calling out new institutions and activities…. the ever retreating frontier has been to the United States… And now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.”
— Frederick J. Turner, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”