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Monday, July 23, 2007


Art is a big mystery to me. I had a drawing instructor once who complained that all of my drawings were narrative in nature – always telling a story – and he seemed to think that there was something else, something more important to strive for – something more elemental. But I could never ‘get’ it.

I’d studied Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in art history class and I secretly began to wonder if I wasn’t being forced, metaphorically, to appreciate the emperor’s new clothes (surely Picasso was naked).

Lately, I’ve fallen into the routine of taking hikes and shooting pictures of a mountain landscape or two and maybe a close-up of a flower. I think I’ve kind of adopted the conceit that I’m some kind of photo journalist or something. I want my pictures to convey a sense of the amazement or wonder I experience when I take them, and maybe also to reveal or instruct, but I’m not sure if any of it is very creative.

This Saturday, I forced myself to look for possible photos in the ordinary surroundings of my neighborhood.

This isn’t exactly a beautiful mountain wildflower. But maybe it is somebody’s personal vision brought to life and blooming in the real world. My favorite part is the green painted concrete. When I was about fourteen and responsible for lawnmower duties, I always thought cutting the grass every week was stupid and often suggested this labor saving solution – green painted concrete - to my father. I’m not saying this scene isn’t attractive, but I can kind of see why he never consented to digging up the lawn, even though ours was mostly dandelions.

No doubt you will be anticipating this, but I’ll have to say it anyway. Here we have an example of late sixty’s Nouveau Holy Art.

There are a bewildering number of churches in the neighborhood. I don’t think you can walk four blocks without running into some kind of church. They seem to be extremely adaptable, taking root in old houses, or behind former store fronts, or in the shells of extinct industrial facilities. Some churches appear emaciated and hungry. A few seem bloated, but superficial. Either way, they send a message.

In this humble church, they gather beneath a cheap blue tarp that, never-the-less, suggests a sheltering heaven and perhaps the wind - a moving spirit.

A muggy summer evening threatens showers on a long vacant schoolyard. I browse the painted glyphs that stand for hopscotch, four-square and kick-ball. I conjure up ghosts of team-captains picking teams. I almost believe I can hear the distinctive noise of the big red bouncing ball.

This learning institution perched on the edge of a street of ill-repute, looks more like a prison or a fort. A man with a shopping cart searches for a night’s accommodation. He carries a bicycle, some plastic, and maybe a certificate of initial mastery.

I never went to this school, but it looks like all the schools I did go to.

On the roof of the school, I saw a row of crows hiding behind a parapet like old-West Indians lining the rim of a canyon waiting to ambush cowboys. The minute I raised my camera…they scattered.

To me they look like notes on a staff, or advanced physics symbols used in formulas for flight calculations.

It isn’t evidence of geologic time like Lava Canyon, but the neighborhood buildings have layers of history too.

Like plants tied to the changing seasons, buildings are subject to the whims of economic cycles.

A chrysalis

A time-piece having recorded a century of passing tires

1 comment:

  1. I firmly believe that what makes you - and I mean the personal SCOTT sense of "you" - an artist, is not the subject matter, or the genre. It doesn't matter whether it's abstract, or realist, or narrative; mountain, or building, or pavement marks.

    It's the way you see the world around you. You see in poetry. You see things other people don't even have an inkling are in existence. You associate thoughts and feelings and experiences with everything around you and are skilled at communicating that.

    THOSE are the things that make you an artist in my eyes.



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