Is there a more haunting question than ‘what if?’ In Bruce Wes’s life – a professor of art and design at Missouri State University – his ‘what if’ takes him back to a road trip through rural Mississippi during a sabbatical in 1994. What he found there became an inspiration for his 18 year photographic journey turned exhibit and book, “The True Gospel Preached Here.”
For approximately 20 years prior to his excursion to the south, West had been gaining recognition, exhibiting gorgeous black and white landscape work and housing collections in museums from the Midwest to Verona, Italy. This project was a literal departure from that in just about every way. These characters – the Reverend and Margaret – were as colorful as the folk art palace they had decorated all around them with banal baubles, beads, hair ties and trinkets.
“Every year I kept going back, and it was always different. I started to realize that this was something really important because there aren’t going to be people like this anymore – people who devote their lives fully to the spiritual and the aesthetic.”
Experiencing the septuagenarians’ passion for evangelism and art changed this passerby into a member of the family for the Dennises’ final 18 years on Earth.
Cheekily, West calls himself a lapsed Catholic, but in all seriousness, he attributes his spirituality as the tie that binds all of his projects together. From showing the majesty of a landscape, to portraying the Dennises as they ‘practiced living perfect for God,’ to looking at religious strife in a series on the The Troubles in Northern Ireland, his photography exposes a longing for the divine.