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March 30, 2012

Lately the weather has continued its shifty assault. A rotating barrage of wind, rain and snow has threatened to undo my sanity. The other night I learned how it must feel to be assigned to the weather station atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire, home the highest recorded wind speed on earth. My bed shook all night like a vibrating bed in a cheap motel that had gone berserk.

Today the horizon has disappeared behind a grey curtain of mist over the lake. The wide open greeting of blue sky and endless vista when I arrived has turned into a cold shoulder, refusing my need to explore the land with my shifting gaze.

I have been working on images of the horizon obscured by dust or smoke, images where the sharp line of earth meeting sky is erased and left vague. Perhaps the weather is trying to help me turn my focus inward rather than out. To stop me from gazing at distant views of unreachable places and to shift my view to what is close at hand and attainable. Perhaps that is the lesson in all of this: to survive in this landscape one must keep focus on things nearby, pay attention to the ground at your feet. Keep the cowboy hat tilted down so that the distant horizon and visions of things that aren’t attainable, not yet, at least, are kept above the shadow of the brim. There are too many tasks that demand immediate attention: cows giving birth, irrigation systems needing mending, alfalfa bales needing loading and unloading. There are things I wanted to see and do here, places beyond the rim of Winter Ridge or the unknown lands to the east I wanted to explore. You can get lost on the sea of the horizon. The tasks that I need to attend to are close by, in the studio with no view.

Wednesday I installed Horizon, Obscured outside on the far edge of the pond where a bench sits, offering a view of the lake. On an eight foot by sixteen inch plywood sheet I painted camouflage, so that the panel would blend in with the sage brush and yellow grass and obscure the view. It is the negative of a blind like those at the far north end of the lake, where hunters will sit in a camouflaged plywood box, guns poking out of a long horizontal slot, waiting to kill the birds that others will drive for days just to see. I was happy with installation although I’ve had no chance to revisit it and sit with it; the minute I finished a whiteout of snow obscured it from view. A brief remission in the weather did allow me to document it but that night hurricane force winds shredded it. Perhaps the weather is not just a teacher but an art critic as well.


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