Manifest Destitution

An exhibition of photography by Scott Christian Hage

On view from August 3 - 30, 2015.
Please join us for a reception on August 28th from 6-8 PM!

Our country’s history of westward expansion and the epic tale of “how the west was won” is quite a story. It is a story filled with romantic notions all at once of honor and adventure, of conquest and valor, of sacrifice and betrayal. It is a story of an unforgiving land, with wagon trains and railroads, cowboys and native-americans, soldiers and federales, lawmen and gamblers, gunfights and gold.

Roughly 2/3 of the 48 contiguous United States, the entirety of the land that lies west of the Mississippi River, was acquired in the first half of the 19th century one of four ways: via purchase from a foreign country (lands of the Louisiana Purchase, from France in 1803, as well as the Gadsden Purchase, from Mexico in 1853), via the conditions of treaty with a foreign country (lands of the Oregon Territory, from Great Britain in 1848), via annexation (U. S. annexation of the Republic of Texas, in 1845), or via the spoils of war (lands of the Mexican Cession stated in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, following the Mexican- American War of 1848). The acquisition of these lands collectively define the borders of the contiguous United States as they are today.

During this era of western expansionism, John L. Sullivan, a New York journalist arguing in favor of annexation by the U. S. of the Republic of Texas in 1845, introduced the term of “manifest destiny” into the American lexicon. Within this ideology, he described a divine right the American people possessed “to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self- government entrusted to us,” to ride the waves of civilization from sea to shining sea.

“Manifest destiny” and the subsequent progress of a new world seemed to be inevitable, and its ideology would provide a rhetorical tone for the justification of this progress. What bureaucrats soon found out, however, was that ownership of these lands was one thing, re-appropriating these lands that had been home to several tribes of native- americans for many centuries was quite another. While the westward expansion of ownership spanned the duration of the first half of the 19th century, the eviction and relocation of the previous tenants would extend the better part of the second half, as the indian wars would finally conclude in 1886 with the surrender of Geronimo at Skeleton Canyon. “Manifest destiny” would itself come to its full realization with the ratification of statehood on February 14, 1912 of Arizona, the 48th state of the union.

Now, more than a century has passed, and the land of the west has gradually morphed into a caricature of itself and its history...destitute of the romantic notions that were once so prevalent to its disposition. The divine providence guiding the very “manifest destiny” so often spoken of in the many years past has seemingly gone missing, perhaps to offer its services to other more worthwhile pursuits, lending uncertainty to what is left in and of the modern landscape. The land itself appears to exude a repentance for the terrible price that had been paid for it...and speaks of a contented dormancy it will begrudgingly awaken from when the next epoch arrives.

If it ever arrives.

About the artist:

Scott Christian Hage is a photographer from Muscatine, IA, and currently resides in Iowa City, IA. Scott is a student of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa, pursuing his B.F.A. in graphic design and photography.  He currently works as the graphic designer for the University of Iowa Museum of Art and also works as a freelance photographer and graphic designer.

For more information, please visit the artist’s website at

For sale inquiries or to make purchases, please contact