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Toys have the power of teaching children about history and the world around them. In this photographic series, I am questioning how the history of the North American landscape comes to be known and perceived through the education of our children. The small plastic toy trees in this series act as stand-ins for the landscape of North America and represent the areas American Indians continue to inhabit on this continent.

The title for this body of work is The North American Landscape in reference to photographer Edward Curtis’s early 20th century epic series of portraits and landscapes entitled “The North American Indian.” I have used Curtis’s photography as a resource in associating specific tribes with the landscapes he documented over a hundred years ago.   His mission was to create an encyclopedic archive of the tribes west of the Mississippi.  In this series I am representing tribes throughout the United States and Canada.

Toys throughout history have been essential to a child’s learning and intellectual growth.  These inanimate objects have a cognitive force that defies their innocent appearance.  Children learn about their environment through play, gaining new information about cause and effect, communication, manipulation, and problem-solving life skills. It is essential to understand that toys depicting Native Americans allow children an imagined power over land and people. Through play children often invent worlds that do not exist.  This series is intended to make the viewer aware of the history of this land and its original people.

Tom Jones


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