Chuck Avery studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and graduated with honors in 1977 with an emphasis on the documentary mode of photography. His work since 2003 has concentrated on suburban expansion and sprawl, and the language and messaging found in historical sites and museums. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, from New York to San Francisco to Ping Yao, China. He was the recipient of a McKnight Fellowship in Photography in 2010 and produced a book titled Museum at the end of his fellowship. His work is included in the collections of the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Kansas and is featured in the Midwest Photographer's Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Illinois. Check out Chuck's website for more info.
One of my earliest memories of a visit to a history museum was seeing the skeleton of Fox Indian Chief Peosta of the Mesquakie tribe on display at the Ham House Museum in my hometown of Dubuque, Iowa in the early 60's. As an impressionable young boy, it both frightened and perplexed me. I must have learned something about being on the losing end of history that day. Of course, our cultural sensibilities have shifted considerably since then. The Ham House has stripped out the displays that I saw as a child and now presents its building as a restored landmark. As a result of this and similar experiences, I am driven to understand how institutions like this reflect America’s historical and cultural legacy.
With that in mind, I traveled around the United States from 2008 until 2012 to visit and photograph other historical sites and museums. My travels took me to areas rich in history, including Boston, Richmond and Los Alamos. The scale of the places I visited ranged from local county museums run by volunteers, to large Smithsonian-affiliated institutions. The stories and themes I found there were those of power, mythology, conflict, preservation and interpretation. Each of these institutions added a unique voice to these themes and to the ongoing dialogue and struggle to define our national heritage. The end result is a sometimes contradictory, often self-serving and occasionally conciliatory mosaic of information that reflects popular notions of who we are as a people. I consider my photographs as an assemblage of voices from around the country - voices eager to have their take on the American story heard.