The Epic Effort to Map the West

A Brilliant Geographer and Famous Photographer Teamed Up to Tackle the Nearly Impossible Task of Surveying 19th-Century California

We’ll start in the 1840s, when Western North America was almost wholly empty of European-Americans. To prepare the land for settlement, the United States government sent teams of explorers into the trans-Mississippi West (some of which was Mexico) and tasked them with telling Americans what they might find there. Men such as John C. Fremont found new ways through the then-unknown landscape, identified mountain passes, sources of water and game, and pointed out places that would be attractive for settlement. That sounds simple enough, but as there were few reliable …

More In: Ed Ruscha

Interpreting the New History of the Old West

Don’t Shed a Tear That the 19th-Century Construct of the American West Is Riding off Into the Sunset

Not too long ago, historians of the American West joined their artistic brethren in celebrating what we now think of as the “Old West.” For historians and artists, the “winning …

My California

In Novelist Edan Lepucki’s Home State, the History Is Fictional, the Terrain Is Otherworldly, and the Population Is United by Difference

In the story about myself, I was born in Santa Monica, in a rental on Sunset Ave. (yes, Avenue, not Boulevard). Early February, which is a bleak month elsewhere, but …

A Story of the West

I am in a eucalyptus grove next to a playground. I am seven, or eight, my school is Catholic, and recess begins and ends with a bell that stings. You …

Ed Ruscha’s Wild West

For 50 Years and Counting, the Artist Has Reinterpreted What the West Means to America

In 1956, at the age of 18, Edward Joseph Ruscha IV left his home in Oklahoma and drove a 1950 Ford sedan to Los Angeles, where he hoped to attend …

Ed Ruscha and the Art of Being in Los Angeles

The Artist Captures the Deeply Two-Dimensional City Like No One Else

Ed Ruscha is expected to reappear in Los Angeles this summer, after having been absent for a decade. Ruscha is the artist who famously didn’t leave, when leaving L.A. for …