Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Dana Fritz

Second Advisor

Walker Pickering

Date of this Version

Spring 3-22-2021

Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Dana Fritz. Lincoln, Nebraska: March, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Terry A Ratzlaff


I see the world not as one seamless world but as a world composed of other worlds, built on top and within one another. They exist harmoniously, bound not by space but by time. In an instant I can move from one world into another where I can exist in two worlds simultaneously—in space, I am here. In time, I am there.

Worldmaking is a conceptual process of seeing connections and making distinctions within our lived reality.1 It is a process of dividing and organizing parts into collections that represent different narratives. Only through suitable arrangements can we handle vast quantities of material and information. Time is marked off into seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia, eons, and so on. This way of ordering makes time comprehensible despite not being found in the world but built into a world. Seen in this view, Take Your Time is a collection of re-constructed perceptions of time connected by the train.

Trains connect worlds. They are the subconscious driver of this work, suggesting a meta-narrative––I am the train, the train is me––inspired by the train’s innate ability to signify time, order, and desire. In looking at the railroad’s vast and interconnected systems of travel, commerce, telecommunications, and information, I perceive trains as meaning-making-logic-machines; a structural device that threads seemingly disparate worlds together. The world is what you make it.

In Take Your Time I photographically deconstruct three idiosyncratic characters: a man who watches trains (The Watcher), a collector of model trains (Dwayne Sam and The Romanticization of The Last Coal Train Through Crawford), and myself––an agent who tracks and mirrors these watchers and collectors (An Echo Requires Distance.) Each character is represented in its collection of coded photographs that visually collide and collude. By coupling the characters, I analyze how obsession organizes a collection with the intent to control the experience of time.

Advisor: Dana Fritz