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A fractured view: Exhibit at North Dakota Museum of Art explores impacts of oil boom

FNS Photo by Wade Rupard Many of the photos in the exhibit “Fractured: North Dakota’s Oil Boom” focused on the people affected by the oil boom. The exhibit is open at the North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks through Oct. 5.

GRAND FORKS — For the next two months, the North Dakota Museum of Art will have an exhibit that hits home with a lot of people in the region.

“Fractured: North Dakota’s Oil Boom” opened at the museum Sunday, and the exhibit explores the impact of the current oil boom on the Williston Basin region in western North Dakota.

The exhibition was developed by The Field Museum in Chicago in collaboration with photographer Terry Evans and journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth.

Evans and Farnsworth attempt to teach viewers how fracking and drilling alter the prairie habitats and how families and communities benefit from the economic boom.

“Everything dealing with the oil boom is full of many, many, many stories, and it all comes back to one huge story of energy in this country and how we’re using … this resource of oil now and in the future,” Evans told the crowd at Sunday’s reception.

The exhibit displays captivating photographs from Evans, which focus on both the people and the land affected by the oil boom. Along with that are pieces written by Farnsworth discussing the tradeoff between landscape and industry. The exhibit strives to have the viewers decide for themselves, with the exhibit ultimately asking, “What is your point of view?”

Portraits of oil workers, landscape photography of the Williston Basin and first-person accounts from those directly affected are featured in order to present a narrative o interlocking stories.

“It’s a great show to tour because it raises all sorts of questions,” said Laurel Reuter, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art. “Most North Dakotans are of two minds: They like what’s happening where wealth is being transferred and distributed, but at the same time, they don’t like what’s happening to the land.”

Evans has photographed the prairies and plains of North America for decades, having her past photography displayed at places such as the Chicago Art Institute, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Evans called North Dakota one of the most naturally beautiful places she has visited. She said she wanted to show how disturbed the landscape is and how it’s changed since the oil boom.

“I think Terry’s photographs show a constant tension between those industrial facilities and the timeliness and mysterious beauty of prairie,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth is a former chief correspondent and substitute anchor on PBS’ “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.” She now freelances for “The News Hour” and makes documentaries, including the Emmy-nominated “The Judge and the General.”

“My hope is that we can show this around the entire state of North Dakota and teach everyone about fracking and what’s going on in your state,” Farnsworth said.

At some point in 2015, Reuter said, the North Dakota Museum of Art hopes to tour “Fractured” throughout the state as part of the museum’s rural arts initiative. Reuter said the museum is talking with museums in western North Dakota about showing the works to the communities affected by the oil boom.

“I believe this is the most important exhibition that has been or will be done on the oil boom for a long time,” Reuter said.