January 9 – March 1, 2020
Reception January 16, 2020 7-8:30 PM
Barbara Diener gallery talk at 6:15 PM on January 16, 2020.
This Is Bliss is a transmedia narrative project investigating the vanishing roadside geography and culture of a rural Idaho town named Bliss. The project is philosophically rooted in a broad consideration of how entrenched mythologies of place and traditional mythologies of happiness collide, and are frequently confounded, in a location that bears a complex narrative of booms and busts and reflects the complicated history of American Idealism and Manifest Destiny.
The richly complex historical significance of Bliss is evidenced by its positioning on the Oregon Trail, its emergence as a town during the construction of the first railroads in the continental US, its positioning on the Snake River Valley, which was investigated photographically by the likes of Timothy O’ Sullivan and Ansel Adams and hosts the site of daredevil Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump a gorge with his motorcycle in 1974, as well as being the home town of Holden Bowler, the inspirational namesake for J.D. Salinger’s quintessential malcontent Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye”. Bliss’ apex, however, came in the mid-20th century during the height of road trip America and only began to diminish when Interstate-84 was constructed, redirecting vehicular traffic away from a once thriving community. As a result, Bliss has been in slow economic decline ever since, a familiar story plaguing small towns in America for decades. All that remains in Bliss is two gas stations, a small school, a church, a diner, and two saloons to service its 300 current residents. Through a varied response to its contemporary landscape and inhabitants, This Is Bliss contrasts romantic visions of the American West with its contemporary reality and considers how the heights of idealism are obtained on both a personal and cultural level.
Jon Horvath is an interdisciplinary artist routinely employing systems-based strategies within transmedia narrative projects. He received his MFA in Photography from UW-Milwaukee in 2008, and a BAS in both English Literature and the History of Philosophy from Marquette University in 2001.
Horvath’s work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group shows at venues including: The Print Center (Philadelphia), FIESP Cultural Centre (Sao Paolo, Brazil), Gyeonggi Art Center (Suwon, South Korea), OFF Piotrkowska (Lodz, Poland), Newspace Center for Photography (Portland), the Haggerty Museum of Art (Milwaukee), INOVA (Milwaukee), Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Manifest Gallery (Cincinnati), Johalla Projects (Chicago), and The Alice Wilds (Milwaukee). His work is currently held in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Haggerty Museum of Art, and is included in the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Horvath currently teaches in the New Studio Practice program at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design