Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department or School/College

School of Art

Committee Chair

MaryAnn Bonjorni

Commitee Members

Kevin Bell, Matt Hamon, Dan Flores


Rural American West, Western Film, Socio-Economics, Art, Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Installation, Mapping, Myth, Fracking


University of Montana


Once Achieved, What is it Worth? examines the contemporary social, political and physical landscape of the American West. My research for the past three years has been exploring the myths and misconceptions associated with this region and how these illusions inform, misinform, distort and taint the cultural norms of the region. My intention is to create a more factual representation of the American West relative to my own experience. The American West is a region that has been marauded for its resources, historically to the present day. There is little difference between the fracking boom that North Dakota is currently experiencing than the gold rushes of the late 1800s in South Dakota or the copper boom that made Butte, Montana, “the richest hill on earth.” The boom and bust culture of this region is part and parcel to what it means to be a Wyomingite, a South Dakotan or a Montanan…all of which are monikers that we Westerners adopt, wear and identify with. At its most basic, the American West is a cash cow for the two coasts and the inhabitants of the region will continue to be subject to benefits and detriments of boom and bust culture. My goal is to remove the romantic façade of the West in favor of a more austere interpretation built upon greed, brutality and guilt. The body of this thesis delves into a variety of aspects of my practice, touching on personal experience, the myth of the American West, mapping, art and critical theory, socio-economics and aesthetics, forming the body of a thesis. This paper may be seen as a more direct examination of my thesis exhibition. The writings should be considered in relationship to my studio practice, however, I also think of the writings as self-contained thoughts on specific subjects. The writings serve as reflections of my process and the various currents that run within it and largely represent my intellectual approach to art practice and making, and as such slightly break from the traditional format of the thesis paper. I hope for this effort to be a more insightful approach as it is a more specific representation, where ideas and concepts are paramount, continually expanding and informing one another, resulting in the visual articulation of these ideas.



© Copyright 2014 James Paul Louks