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Dryden's American Myth

31st March 2014
Art and design

Exhibition: GHOST: Myth and Reality of the American Western Homestead
Artist:  Sarah Dryden
Venue:  Solent Showcase Gallery, Sir James Matthews Building, Above Bar, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 7NN
When:  28 April 2016 – 18 June 2016
Preview:  27 April 2016

GHOST: Myth and Reality of the American Western Homestead is the latest exhibition at Southampton Solent University’s Showcase gallery. It explores the historical facts, myths and mediation of the early US settlers in the American West.

Part of an ongoing research project by photographer Sarah Dryden, the work seeks to explore the disparity between fictionalised depictions of the homestead in the Western States of the US and the realities faced by early settlers in relation to climate, geography, elevation, materials, design and construction methods.


The town of Bodie is one of five sites investigated in the research. It is said to be the most notorious of the California Ghost Towns with tales of gold digging, shootings and a narrative that any Wild West cowboy film would be proud of. More recently, Bodie has been used as a tourist destination, a museum site, a film set, advertising and music video backdrop – not to mention its direct links with Clint Eastwood’s fictional town of Lago in the film High Plains Drifter.

The exhibition also draws on the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe’s Ghost Host – which was recently reconstructed within Disney’s Haunted Mansion – and Victor Burgin’s Situational Aesthetics that looks to the built environment as a theatre of wishes and fears past, present and future, and the haunting of an environment by history, memory and fantasy.

Sarah Dryden is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Fashion at Southampton Solent University.