Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Brian I. Daniels
My project, Mason & Dixon, traces the footsteps of the original surveyors of the Mason-Dixon Line and their search for purpose in the borderlands between Pennsylvania and Maryland. For the past 250 years, the Line has inscribed a violent and painful scar on the land, filled with memories and (re)written histories. Holding the legacies of slavery and colonial expansion deep in its soil, the region is now a visceral example of the ongoing divisions and conflicts around the past, the present, and the future of the United States. The friction is in the air, it is in the monuments, and the clearcuts; all part of the invisible cartographies that frame our identities. I often ask myself how the land can support this unbearable weight.
I photograph along the Mason-Dixon Line because I am looking for connections between the divides: connections to the people I meet, to the land I grew up on, and to the history I am a part of. The irony is that the relationships that bind us are also the stories that divide us; that make a miasma that is perilous to traverse. But when I cross the dividing Line nothing changes, even though the signs say it is there. When I cross the Line it becomes mythology and I am left searching for a constellation on the ground I cannot find.
The Mason-Dixon Line is a line we all draw as we try to manifest an American identity. Utilizing large format black and white photography, the images in this project are my ethnographic observations of this continual process, my contributions to a discussion without answers, and my impressions of a nation unsure of itself.
Leventhal, Drew, "Mason & Dixon: History and Identity in the Borderlands" (2022). Masters Theses. 909.
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