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Reimagining the Age of Aquarius

In Matt Henry’s book Short Stories, published this fall by Kehrer Verlag, Elvis and Richard Nixon serve as bookends for American history, framing the carefully art-directed narratives of 1960s and 70s small town life that Henry built from scratch. The King shows up on playing cards and in a jigsaw puzzle, his death announced on the front page of a newspaper tucked into a red vinyl diner booth; Tricky Dick appears on motel room TVs and on the cover of a copy of Newsweek that sits on a desk littered with Wild Turkey and Jim Beam bottles and smoldering cigarettes. In between are a cast of characters from the era—a tie-dyed hippie, a blond bombshell, a long-haired student—who, in pairs and groups shot in cinematic close-ups and wide defining shots, act out dramas set in motel rooms and corn fields, diners and homes.

Henry’s interest in this particular slice of American life developed from afar. He grew up in North Wales in the 1980s and 90s, but felt the pull of this time and place in books, TVs, movies, and in a few of his own road trips. “Everything was to play for in this era,” says Henry in a statement. “Culture and politics fused like no other time. Much has been made of urban movements like Haight-Ashbury but I became interested in how the more rural and isolated parts of the USA fared during the so-called Age of Aquarius. The tension between burgeoning liberal ideas and the stubborn conservatism of rural America is fascinating for me, and provides the most fantastic backdrop for storytelling.”

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