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THE NEW YORKER

TOTEMS

Kayafas calls the abandoned houses, barns, and churches he’s photographed over the past three years “totems,” perhaps because they have both a sculptural presence and a symbolic weight. Found throughout the American West, typically on wide-open plains, many of these buildings are in a state of collapse: roofs and windows are gone, walls have caved in. But others appear nearly intact; beautifully weathered, the structures are so simple and compact they might be folk-art playhouses. Even the most dilapidated have character—the kind of pioneer spirit that refuses to accept defeat. Through July 16.

Review by Vince Aletti, July, 2011