Becky and I just got back from a trip through some of the NPS administered lands in Southern Utah. We camped our way from Arches to Zion. One of the really great things was being able to see the stars so clearly at night. Of the parks we visited, Natural Bridges and Bryce Canyon had the darkest night skies.
You can see more photos of the night sky on flickr.
I spent last weekend out in 29 Palms with Pete and a few dozen other artists from around the UC system. Many of us installed work in the desert, and invited the public to come see what we had been up to. Pete and I worked together after the first symposium to come up with an idea for work we thought would make sense in the desert, which resulted in a piece called Trace: Resonance Field. It is a field of ceramic plates that are struck with rhythms controlled by seismic data from the surrounding mountains. I also had a chance to install Tamarisk in a more suitable location.
We’re working on editing our documentation into a cogent bit of video for the internet. For now, you can see photos of the process and some short video clips on flickr. New photos of Tamarisk will be online soon, as well.
There was quite a bit of press for the show. Among others, there was a writeup in artinfo, and a video and photo gallery by press enterprise.
I spent last weekend in Wonder Valley in the Mojave as part of the Mapping the Desert symposium organized by UCIRA and the Sweeney Art Gallery. While there, I had the great opportunity to meet with artists from other UC campuses, and to encounter a number of aspects of the desert. These encounters led to early thoughts on themes the desert elicited from me during my stay: salt, the development of journey as a shareable artwork, and the not-so-serious Zombie Christians or doing what you ought not.
The first thing that struck me in the desert was the salt-tree in front of our campsite. The tree—a tamarisk—had large crystals of salt coating its leaves.
Salt manifests wherever there is water in the desert, and plants growing in oases need to be halophilic to survive. I am interested in systems where halophiles could be operating benevolently on behalf of less salt-tolerant species, and in the exoskeleton that the halophiles produce as they grow under mineral-rich conditions.
Scrambling from rock to rock in Joshua Tree National Monument cemented the desire Pete Hawkes and I had to make the journey integral to some of our work. Michael Kimmelman’s essay on The Art of the Pilgrimage brings up how travel to see a work shapes your perception of the work; I think the travel itself could become the work. What better way to share a steep mountain climb than to lead someone on it? Naturally, we would like to have some additional payoff, some tangible work that people who engage in the travel ultimately contribute to. We’re working out the details.
Let’s not forget the crazies who live out in the desert, or the artists who impersonate crazies in the desert. Christmas-tree-like light-up crosses, keep-out signs, and ringing church bells that don’t belong to you. The bells peal loudly in the desert, trailing off into the open space, never bouncing back. Someone else hears and we all scramble for the car. It doesn’t start for a minute that feels much longer, when we finally drive off into the space, becoming a glowing light on the horizon.
More images from the weekend are available on flickr.