Meghan L. E. Kirkwood



April 4–28, 2019

Artist talk: Saturday, April 20, 3:00 PM

The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) garnered national and international attention and consternation as a result of protests from members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and numerous Native and non-Native supporters. Protestors argued that the pipeline’s crossing over the Missouri River would jeopardize the reservation’s water supply and invoke further damage to sacred sites already wrought by contractors. In spite of ongoing legal challenges, on March 27th, 2017, Energy Transfer Partners completed construction on the fourstate, 1,172-mile pipeline.

For individuals such as myself who grew up in a suburban environment, massive infrastructure projects such as the DAPL are abstractions. I benefit from the resources they transport and the costs of such delivery systems are borne by others in far away places. As an increasing number of Americans locate to coastal settings, my own experience is shared by many.

Beginning in Fall 2016 I followed the pipeline route in North Dakota and photographed the landscapes it traversed. I wanted to see what construction looked like at the landscape-level and view the range and agricultural landscapes reshaped by its insertion.

This collection of photographs profiles the path of the pipeline in one of the four states it crosses. The project does not attempt to be comprehensive in nature, but to contribute a broader context for a highly politicized topic. The images highlight the physical disruption of the landscape it traverses as well as surrounding environments, and together the series examines the ways in which documentary images of land can provide context to current debates related to land use and natural resource extraction.

Meghan L. E. Kirkwood is Assistant Professor of Art at North Dakota State University where she teaches Photography and Foundations courses. She earned a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Photography in 2006 before completing her MFA in Studio Art at Tulane University in 2009. She has received numerous fellowships, including funding to participate in artist residencies through the National Parks Service, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Lakeside Lab in Iowa. Kirkwood’s photography has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, and South Africa.