There are more than 500 postcards in David Opdyke’s haunting and powerful work, This Land. Each vintage postcard from the early to mid-20th century is a slice of Americana. Images of tourists and travelers enjoying the promise of the wide-open expanses of America’s backcountry and some of its prettiest national parks. 16 feet by 8 feet, it’s a massive collection, a mosaic of nostalgia.
Upon more careful inspection, the postcards have been painted over by Opdyke to reflect a future environment in crisis. Damaging resource extraction is rampant with fossil fuel pipes snaking through cities and over cherished natural landmarks. Numerous wildfires, powerful tornadoes, and rising seas—all likely in store for future generations in the coming decades—have been added into the once innocent and carefree scenes.
Opdyke’s vision is the exact opposite of the promising, bright and shining future those postcards were originally meant to convey with American pride bursting and a seemingly limitless natural world there for our pleasure. In installation, many of the postcards have dropped from the wall they were once glued to, a sure nod to the feeling that things are slipping, becoming unglued.
The title is a reference to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” and it means, well, exactly what it says. “This land, this is what we’ve got. This is it,” says Opdyke.
“These older postcards show a world full of promise and potential, and a belief in the benefits of progress and development,” Opdyke told AJ. “Seeing them now feels nostalgic, because things haven’t turned out so well, and we want to climb back into the optimism of the past.”
Opdyke put his work in its entirety on his website and invites the viewer to zoom in, spend some time with the images. It can be viewed here.
All images courtesy of the artist.