Arts in Wyoming: Regina Porter on Choosing Challenge
In a dense city, the wind moves differently than it does across the high plains of Wyoming.
It comes up against unnatural obstacles, ricochets off glass and steel. It might get stopped short, the same way one’s line of sight is abbreviated by urban structure.
At the Ucross Foundation ranch, home to an artist residency program just 27 miles southeast of Sheridan, “It’s quiet,” said Regina Porter, an award-winning novelist and 2022 Ucross resident. “And it gives me an opportunity to literally think about what it would be like to ride on the sky… I think that this ranch, in total, is larger than Manhattan.” She’s right.
Out here, she thinks “about space and how space is used and how the wind moves… It just makes me think of the stories you grasp being in this kind of nature and how they’re different from the city.”
Regina, who lives in Brooklyn, was a 2020 Pen/Hemingway Award finalist for her first novel, The Travelers. In pursuit of her next project, she found a new type of space to move through, and think in, at Ucross. “There’s sky and land all around me. There’s a lot of open space to create.”
And there was plenty of room to remember, too. “The other day I was walking… and it was something out of a Western, really. I grew up watching Westerns with my dad, especially Clint Eastwood Westerns, so I know them all… So just walking, I had this moment, my dad’s not here anymore, where I thought, oh my God, what would he think of this?”
Fostering fresh perspective and exploring new ideas is key to her work, even if it doesn’t necessarily come easily. “To be an explorer means to be willing to say, I don’t know… To try to ask questions instead of making assumptions… It’s an openness. It’s an openness to learning and meeting people and hearing different points of view because if the only point of view is what you already believe, you’re not challenged. As an explorer, I want to be challenged.”