Driving through South Dakota, there are thousands of signs saying a variety of different things. These signs may say some kind of command that will keep drivers safe on the roadway. One sign, however, makes drivers think more carefully when driving.
Judith Peterson, a photographer from Sioux Falls, made an artistic collection of photos from signs that read “Think,” which will be displayed in the University of South Dakota’s I.D Weeks Library on the second floor.
Oct. 7, from 6-8 p.m., Peterson will have an artist reception and will be speaking about her artwork.
“Just as the lives these signs represent are individual and unique, the signs themselves have defining characteristics,” Peterson said in her artist statement, the explanation of the artwork.
The “Think” signs are placed where accidents have occurred on the roads of South Dakota. In Peterson’s photographs the dramatic loss of those people is evident, and in a few photos more than one sign is present. Twelve photos resemble lost loved ones who have died in car accidents.
Danielle De Jager-Loftus, assistant professor of technology and art, music and theater librarian, is the host of the event and said the artwork is “very emotional.”
“It’s easy to figure out the loss and easy to understand,” De
The signs are put up by the South Dakota Department of Transportation. Some are decorated with flowers or mementos from loved ones. They can be found all over the state as a remembrance for those lost.
Peterson said taking the photos required a unique tactic.
“You have to walk right up to the sign and really interact with the sign in a completely different way,” she said.
Peterson said she originally took the photos with a digital camera and then, upon deciding to approach it differently, chose to use a medium-format Holga
camera. The photos include multiple exposures of the signs.
De Jager-Loftus said students may find the artwork to be emotional. The signs representing lost lives in any accidental way provide a powerful look on the ways of the road, she said.
“It’s really sweet how she put them together, but also really sad,” senior Stephen Flicek said. “From far away I noticed the color scheme; really earthy. There is a sadness about them.”
While Peterson’s artwork will be on display until Dec. 16, the artist reception will provide an invitation for students to meet the artist, De Jager-Loftus said. The event gives students the opportunity to learn more about the artwork and the other pieces produced by Peterson.
“I am very honored to USD for their support in my work and for the invitation to have the exhibit,” Peterson said.
While these signs represent something different for everyone, Peterson said she has one hope for the exhibit.
“My hope is that we all take a moment to stop and think and that’s really what I’m looking for and that we celebrate each other and think of South Dakota and the people in this community,” Peterson said. “I think that it would be a really good thing.”
Reach reporter Alex Grundstrom at Alexandra.Grundstrom@usd.edu