Spellerberg Projects

Kate Schneider, We, the Heartland

Exhibition • January 6–March 25, 2017

On their 6,000-acre ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, Richard and Bonny Kilmurry live a seemingly simple existence that belies their quiet intelligence and fierce independence.

When the Kilmurry family received a letter from the TransCanada Corporation in 2012 stating that their ranch could host a portion of a 1,833-mile tarsands oil pipeline, the apolitical family, by nature distrustful of environmentalists, found themselves on the front-lines of the Keystone XL pipeline protest movement.

This reluctant environmentalism is not unique to the Kilmurrys. The KXL movement aligned groups who were previously segregated and perhaps even antipathetic — liberal environmentalists, conservative ranchers and farmers, and Native Americans — to fight for the rejection of the proposed “black snake.”

We, The Heartland is a love letter to the cultural landscape of the prairies. Photographs by Kate Schneider portraying the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route in Nebraska and South Dakota are paired with handwritten letters to President Obama from landowners and Lakota natives. The landscapes address the unseen threat the proposed pipeline poses to the land, and the accompanying letters address the indexical relationship between the land and those who seek to preserve it.

About the artist

Schneider is a Toronto-based photographer and educator. Her work is based in the traditions of documentary storytelling and ethnography, and her most recent works focus on the impact that land and the socialized landscape have on individual and cultural identity in North America. Schneider was recognized by the Magenta Foundation’s 2013 and 2015 Flash Forward competitions, and has recently shown her work at the Soho Photo gallery (New York), the Society of Photographic Education (Cleveland), and the floor of the United States Senate. She received her MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University (2009) and is an Instructor of Photography at OCAD University and the University of Guelph-Humber. This exhibition was made possible with the support of the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.