OKLAHOMA DRIFT - Chasing Bob Dylan's America

Starting in 2021, I partnered with the retired actor and playwright Mark Jenkins - who drove from his home in Laramie, Wyoming to see Bob Dylan perform in Denver in February, 1964 - to explore the new Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa. Two Seattle-based artists and Dylan enthusiasts, separated by a generation, Mark and I are traveling throughout Oklahoma exploring how Dylan's art influenced the way we see the world and what the state says about America. With Mark’s notebooks and my cameras, we will continue to wonder why Dylan agreed to put his personal archives in the state and through the voices and stories we find, seek out how the state reflects back on his uniquely American art.

  • drift (noun): Being driven off course. Deviation from a course. Move in a casual or aimless manner. A natural course or tendency of events or actions. The underlying meaning, import, or purport of what is spoken or written.
  • drifty (adjective): Full of secret aims, wily.

When asked why he agreed to send his archives to the state, Dylan reportedly said he preferred “the casual hum of the middle of the country”. As we roam Oklahoma, with Tulsa as one of America's best crossroads cities, we will search out themes of justice, civil rights, faith, inequality, crime and outlaws, beauty, love, folk life, protest, and of course, music. Oklahoma tells the American story probably better than any other state - a place where people came with their hopes and dreams, often only to discover its failures and injustices. Oklahoma is, in many ways, a mirror to America's lofty principles, a place where the country's long, often brutal history has been compressed, but still oozes to the surface like the sea of oil that once lay under the land.

We hope to start making a dummy by the summer of 2024.


The Rose Pawn Shop. 2nd Avenue, Tulsa


Bob Dylan performing in Paris, 1966. Photograph by Barry Feinstein

Historian Sean Wilentz, in his book Bob Dylan in America, described Dylan’s 1966 performance in Paris, where he hung a giant U.S flag on the stage for the concert, captured in Barry Feinstein's classic photograph, eliciting outrage from the French audience:

"....waiting for the second half of the show, when the curtain parts, and there they see to their horror, attached to the backdrop, the emblem of everything they are coming to hate, the emblem of napalm and Coca-Cola and white racism and colonialism and imagination's death. It is a huge fifty-star American flag. And Bob Dylan, the emblem of American rebellion and imagination's rebirth, has hoisted it aloft.

What's the joke? But it is no joke. They are here to hear the idol, and know full well that the idol now will play electric (after what turned out to be a frustrating-to-all-concerned acoustic set), which will offend the folk purists in Paris as it has in cities across the United States and Great Britain. But this Stars and Stripes stuff turns a musical challenge into an assault, an incitement, as in-your-face — more so — to the young Left Bank leftists as any Fender Telecaster. In England, the idol had traded insults with the hecklers, but in Paris, on this, his twenty-fifth birthday, he strikes first.

Whether they like it or not, the idol will give them his own version of "America," a place that they have never learned about in books and, if they have, that they do not comprehend. Angry patrons boo and shout, "U.S. go home!""


The Bob Dylan Center and downtown Tulsa.