Pioneering Mattawa

About the Exhibition

Pioneering Mattawa includes photographs by Joseph Bartscherer and texts by the artist and Willard Wood made between 1984 and 1986 in the newly irrigated desert town of Mattawa, Washington.  Until 1984, this town, situated at the edge of a vast federal irrigation project, subsisted in a near aboriginal state.  Sagebrush dominated its sandy flats; bunchesgrass occupied the surrounding hills.  By 1986, two years after the final extension of canals and the arrival of water, Mattawa had been transformed almost entirely into orchards, vineyards, and row crops.  The exhibition describes Mattawa at the moment its desert ecosystem is supplanted and agriculture is installed.  The features of the emerging agricultural system gain definition by their newness, and context by their proximity to remaining aboriginal tracts.  The clarity of the system, its forward direction and complication with the past, its possibility and its hubris, are the topics of the exhibition.