Grays The Mountain SendsBryan Schutmaat

“The principal supporting business now is rage. Hatred of the various grays the mountain sends, hatred of the mill, The Silver Bill repeal, the best liked girls who leave each year for Butte. One good restaurant and bars can’t wipe the boredom out. The 1907 boom, eight going silver mines, a dance floor built on springs— all memory resolves itself in gaze, in panoramic green you know the cattle eat or two stacks high above the town, two dead kilns, the huge mill in collapse for fifty years that won’t fall finally down.” 

Richard Hugo’s desperate lines echo throughout the battered and exhausted landscape of Grays The Mountain Sends. This is the industrially ravaged American West; small ex-mining mountain towns clinging to a long spent promise, and the forgotten men who still believe in its riches. They were settlements established on a dream, rewarding those who toiled with the exploits of endless bounties, but are now left to inhabit an obsolete place—choked by despair and abandoned by prosperity.

Navigating the isolation and gloom, Bryan Schutmaat records what of the dream remains: the mountains’ industrial memorials, a landscape’s endurance and a faithful clinging to existence. Mineral and hope have been extracted, and in the eyes of the weathered men is reflected the sadness extant in the mountain shadows. However, there is a dignity in this masculine community; believers bound to the mountains with a stoic resolve and like the strength of the landscape itself, a refusal to accept submission.

Like the taxidermy frontier beasts that hang lifeless in the mountain homes of those he meets, Schutmaat attempts to preserve a disregarded life. The fading sentimental symbols of the Wild West, which litter the lives of those that inhabit this place, romanticize the mythology of the land. However, Schutmaat sensitively strikes a closely observed balance, and the resulting eloquent and affectionate meditation is a testament to the ideals that remain of those who believe in the forgotten West.

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