PhotoSummer: Artist's Statement

Jeremiah Ariaz


(color photographs, dimensions: 32 x 40 in. and 48 x 60 in.)

While driving across the U.S. I pulled off Interstate 40 for a break in Tucumcari, NM. I was drawn to the historic buildings along Main Street and the way their brilliant colors shone in the western sun light. I took a few photographs though at the time I had no intentions for them. A year later I stopped in Tucumcari again. I was surprised at how much the town, a place that previously appeared frozen in time, had changed. The landmark Sands Dorsey Drugstore had been gutted by fire. Signage had been removed from other Main Street buildings. The Ogden Theater, one of the few downtown businesses still in operation, was playing the movie "Forbidden Kingdom", a fit description of the town itself. Over the next ten years I returned to Tucumcari annually to photograph the town, its residents, and the surrounding landscape.

Recent developments in Tucumcari have been scarce and concentrated along the interstate. Many of the town's independent establishments have been abandoned or bulldozed, sometimes leaving their once iconic neon signs standing like tombstones over empty lots. The town's centennial occurred in 2008 coinciding with the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. With this decade-long project Tucumcari has provided a window to America and a time of shifting values and increasing economic inequality. As the next presidential election cycle begins I wish to foreground this distinctly American place caught between a vanishing past and an uncertain future.