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The Question

March 15, 2012

I woke up today feeling tired and a bit disconnected. Perhaps it was the heavy, overcast grey sky that reminded me of home, perhaps it was the fumes from the fixative I used in the studio last night. I felt a nagging question mark looming over everything I have been doing here. Where is this process leading me? What will happen when I leave the expanse of the western landscape and return to the bucolic countryside of home? How do I resolve the visual conflict between the seduction of the wide open spaces and the need to create a world of flat imagery: photographs, paintings, drawings, writing, and  symbols? Since humans first started leaving their mark on cave walls we have been drawn into a world that is increasingly two dimensional. Now we live by the screen: our  TVs, laptops, and  smartphones provide us with all the primary visual experience we think we need. We record new experiences without even peering from behind our devices and file away memories based those digital files. How do I resolve the conflict between my own need to create imagery and the desire to simply sit still and take in a scene, perched high on a rock?

I am fascinated by visual experiences that bridge the gap between the dimensions like the “STOP” painted on road intersections, distorted so that on the flat screen of our windshields we read it without thinking. It impresses me that someone put a lot of effort to create the perfect template for that. I am also equally impressed that someone figured out to write “ambulance” backwards on the front of ambulances. I notice these things because of the job I had painting signs and billboards during my college years. The billboard is probably the ultimate expression of human imprinting on the landscape. It is a wonderful scale to work at and the placement,  usually smack dab in the middle of some wonderful view, guarantees exposure. I consider the works I have done here on the playa to be big drawings, like doing billboards. But, with a large scale there is certain responsibility, an ethic, to create things that inform but do not offend.  I can’t say that all of my billboards met that criteria. Today, as I mucked about in the fresh snow on the playa I was aware of my impact but the urge to express myself prevailed. As the snow melted and turned the flats into a muddy sea, my work dissolved into mere footsteps. What impact do I have?

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