An Exhibit by Philip Heying
May 20 – September 3
Presenting Sponsor | Kansas City Public Library
Opening Reception May 20th 1-4pm
Philip Heying in conversation with Laura Cobb at 2pm
Philip Heying’s full-time arrival to the Flint Hills in November 2019 satisfied a long affinity for the region. The Kansas native and 2022 Guggenheim Fellow has spent considerable time away from his home state, but trips to the Flint Hills at an early age left an impression on the artist. Later, Heying regularly cycled through the landscape and set aside time to see the tallgrass prairie when coming back to visit family. After moving back to Kansas to look after his aging father, Heying spent even more time in the Flint Hills and eventually moved to Matfield Green, KS.
Volland is pleased to share photographs from two bodies of Heying’s work in the exhibit Country | Citizens. Together they present a vision of what a possible future might be; one where we learn from the landscape and the people that inhabited it for thousands of years without destroying it. Heying’s photographs offer the sort of contemplative effect and quiet beauty that comes from complete devotion to his subject. The works display a wide range of settings, conditions, and scale, deepening our connection to the landscape, their titles, like A temperate spring feeding the headwaters of the South Fork Cottonwood River in winter, -2 degrees Fahrenheit (2) – 26 December 2022 4:24pm, stamping and contextualizing a singular moment.
The exhibit also shares what is left of the wildlife of the area. The candid moments from Citizens on the trail-cam-like setup span from curiosity to lookouts and bickering. Although full of life, one cannot help drawing connections to a stage or a diorama in these unvarnished displays.
On May 20th, opening day of the exhibit, Philip Heying will be in conversation with Laura Cobb, MFA, about his work and will take questions from the audience. The reception will run from 1-4 with the artist talk to begin at 2. Free admission. Light refreshments served.
Photographer Philip Heying, born in 1959 in Kansas City, Missouri, learned the basics of photography in middle school. In 1983, he earned a BFA in painting from the University of Kansas.
During college, Philip was introduced to William S. Burroughs and met Albert Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin and Timothy Leary.
In 1985 Philip crossed the Atlantic on a coal freighter to live in Paris. The experience of learning a new language and culture had a profound effect on his photography. He had his first solo exhibition in 1989 at Galerie Agathe Gaillard in Paris and has continued exhibiting his work internationally since then.
He returned to the United Sates to live in Brooklyn from 1997-2008. He worked for and became friends with Irving Penn and Joel Meyerowitz, among others, and did his own freelance editorial and advertising photography jobs.
In 2008, Philip returned to Kansas. He became a professor of photography at Johnson County Community College. He taught three curricula and managed the photo facility. He completed nine photographic book projects, and several of his prints were acquired by the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art and Spencer Museum of Art.
In 2019, after his father died, he moved to Matfield Green, Kansas.
In the spring of 2022 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography.
Ten generations ago, at the end of the 18th century, grasslands covered 170 million acres of the North American Continent, from south of the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico, from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River basin. Today, less than 4% of this ecosystem remains intact. Most of the remaining prairie is found in the Flint Hills of central Kansas.
Without the space of the Great Plains, our imaginations would be deprived of a potent metaphor for possibility, abundance, and resilience. To spend time living in a grassland is to become subliminally connected to the central alchemical idea: As above, so below. The intermingling of forms, the echoes and symmetries of processes that determine and permeate these forms, are constantly apparent. Citizens of the prairie become intimate with otherwise unfathomable temporal and spatial scales.
What will the world look like in fifty or one hundred years? It’s all too easy to imagine it as a dystopian wasteland. On the other hand, cognitive science and common sense tell us that people tend to assume that what works today, business as usual, will always work. Yet, it’s certain that business as usual is no longer an option. This era has come to be called the Anthropocene, because humanity is now the predominant force of change on the planet, drastically transforming the earth’s atmosphere, climate, and geology with shocking rapidity. If we are to avoid catastrophe of unprecedented scale and destruction, humanity must imagine some alternative, hold a vision of the future that is desirable, and make the changes necessary to fulfill that image. The purpose of my photographs of the prairie is to contribute to such a desirable vision.
I find myself thinking of the animals I encounter while exploring the prairies and woodlands near my home as representatives of the knowledge required to live as a vital part of this terrain that is lost to me. Having lived around animals of various degrees of domestication for most of my life, I’ve come to be convinced that we have more in common than the developers of industrial livestock production would have me believe. Living and photographing around Matfield Green has only intensified these beliefs in me. The various animals I’ve observed all clearly communicate emotions, intelligence and sensitivity to any other creature willing to receive those messages. When I photograph wildlife, I see them as citizens living in a society that is parallel to the one I inhabit, and our worlds never quite intersect. Sometimes we warily observe each other across a chasm of incomprehension and fear. On a few rare occasions these encounters have contained moments of pure mutual curiosity that I can only understand as a meeting of minds that leaves me reconsidering the most basic premises of my life. What is it, really, on the end of the fork I hold in my hand?
We are grateful to the
Kansas City Public Library for their generous Presenting Sponsorship