Retracing my youth through timeworn childhood homes, sprawling sub-developments and expansive prairies reveals an identity shaped by the peripheral and liminal landscapes of suburban and rural Illinois. This personal struggle parallels a larger conversation about Midwestern intermediate spaces and denotes a modern chapter in the long story of Illinois prairie transformation: from wild grassland to native Illiniwek settlement to Western European agrarian state to modern metropolis. This transition has long been a source of both celebration and consternation, either championed as God’s destiny or condemned as human folly. As Carl Sandberg writes in his 1918 poem Prairie, many have wrangled with the price and promise of progress. But while the loss may be worth lamenting, progress pays no mind: both the prairie and the city hold growth and potential, ever indebted to change and always looking to the future.
I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
only an ocean of to-morrows,
a sky of to-morrows.
Alex Turner (b. 1984) is from Chicago, Illinois and holds a BA in studio art from DePaul University. His work explores historical and contemporary perceptions of the environment: how space is designated and utilized, and where lines are drawn between preservation and development. Moving to Tucson, Arizona to pursue an MFA in photography, he is current investigating these ideas in the context of the borderlands of the American Southwest. You can view more of his work here.