Monday, May 01, 2006

At the Onset of an Art Pilgrimage

Rather than objectifying art, and metaphorically oneself, by creating works of art recognizable in discrete 2, 3, or even 4 dimensional objects, the next step is to expand one's vision and work with space, environments and places. When art blurs the distinction between interior and exterior, we get to the place modern architecture has been trying to lead us for decades. Installation art is an attempt to take work off the walls, sculpture off the pedestals, and create environments that viewers can participate in and walk amongst.

This has been done in Hollywood for years in the form of movie sets and exists in landscape architecture of some highly elaborate gardens in history. Artists are again taking it outside. Noah Purifoy's desert museum is one of the greatest testaments to art that breathes fresh pure high desert air. The city has become claustrophobic, gas prices and traffic stifle movement and there is a staid monotony to the resultant hegemony when artists influence and re-influence one another in regurgitory and mutual adoration manner. If breathing and living are limiting how is inspiration possible in a high-density living situation? New York has become too saturated, molecular migration prohibited by lack of porosity, no where to move, run to, or hide. Los Angeles is developing a similar problem.

Minutiae clutter whole days, hours are lost to running errands and returning phone calls, our soul's energy is nickel and dimed til evening hours when we are left wondering where did the day go? Piles of reading that I have to do compete with piles of reading that I want to do. Quality of living in LA has become so expensive and exhausting that the laidback casual fun in the sun stereotype no longer applies. Who has time? Something drastic had to happen. Leaving LA to go on an art pilgrimmage to the desert seems like the only sane thing to do. I made a list of art destinations: Joshua Tree, Sedona, Santa Fe, Larry Bell's studio in Taos, Walter De Maria's Lightning Field in Quemado, The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas - outlining an exploratory scouting expedition.

There are some things that I'm planning on seeing and things that I don't know yet that I'll find. I've called ahead to the Dia Foundation to schedule a day and night to stay at their cabin at the Lightning Field, advance reservations are de rigueur, and of course in the one-horse town of Marfa. ETA's are considerate to your hosts and for that reason only the trip is taking some form of itinerary. Aside from that I plan on a good road atlas and a cell phone as essential tools of the trade. There are a lot of unknowns and variables, one thing will lead to another and the trip will take shape organically.

The traditional studio model just doesn't seem to fit anymore, at least not in the city. I think better out there, the light, space and air are infinitely more inspirational, and I don't have to fight an uphill battle with the city just to maintain livelihood. I'm going out to scout sites to make art, to focus on my work and create new ideas and works with the unknown variables which I have yet to encounter but I feel are out there. I'm listening to my gut, it's something I've been wanting to do, and it feels right. My recent forays into the desert have left me yearning to go deeper.

Journeying into the Southwest region, there's something I will find out there. Possibly an inspiration for an as yet uncategorizable art form that can only come from the vast unknown and the void without and within. It's true, I don't need to go anywhere, you can find whatever you need inside yourself, and ultimately I believe all that. But open spaces and new air, new environments, produce new ideas. It's about the edge and getting really close to it, engaging in brinkmanship always with oneself and the way we relate to the world we live in. Learning, living, loving, growing, stretching. What else is there? And so the seeming paradox, if I knew what I would find, would I really need to go out there and look for it?

In NY, LA, Paris, Berlin, there are real distractions. In the desert, there is nothing but clarity. Maybe by going out there I'm spending enough time in solitude to face my demons. Maybe the city is the distraction and the escape.

"The hero's journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, "Look, you're in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There is a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that's not been touched. So you're at home there? Well, there's not enough of you there. And so it starts. The call is to leave a certain social situation, move into your own loneliness and find the jewel, the center that's impossible to find when you're socially engaged. You are thrown off-center, and when you feel off-center, it's time to go.

This is the departure when the hero feels something has been lost and goes to find it. You are to cross the threshold into new life. When one thinks of some reason for not going or has fear and remains in society because it's safe, the results are radically different from what happens when one follows the call. If you refuse to go, then you are someone else's servant. When this refusal of the call happens, there is a kind of drying up, a sense of life lost. Everything in you knows that a required adventure has been refused. Anxieties build up. What you have refused to experience in a positive way, you will experience in a negative way.

If what you are following, however, is your own true adventure, if it is something appropriate to your deep spiritual need or readiness, then magical guides will appear to help you. Your adventure has to be coming right out of your own interior. If you are ready for it, then doors will open where there were no doors before, and where there would not be doors for anyone else. And you must have courage. It's the call to adventure, which means there is no security, there are no rules."

~ from Joseph Campbell's Reflections

Security is false. Ships are safe in the harbor. But that's not what ships were built for. Soldiers' fears disappear as they reach the warfront. Traveling is such a deep part of living for me. I don't think it means I'm running, I don't know, in many ways it still feels like a home and possessions are just anchors. I haven't been thinking of finance, I've been thinking of art and philosophy. Some people travel and some people stay put. Maybe in different parts of your life the same person can do both.

This trip feels very ambitious and obviously I also have deeply personal feelings about it as well. I feel torn. I see young artists developing relationships with young dealers and they've developed a style & a schtick. And yet I keep searching further and further outside of the scene. True, I return with widely ranging new inspiration and source material, yet they've created relationships and set programming. "What if I disappear off the radar?" is my big fear as I wander off into the I-10. And yet, if I stay, I don't feel satiated by the same scene that I know too well. Working in galleries while still an undergrad at UCLA, maybe I knew too much too soon and now I'm just not impressed with the same scene anymore. What is my overall vision? Do I know the answer and/or should I construct an easily palatable one to use for media and small talk purposes? I'm struck by so many questions as I begin to go out on this journey. It's exciting, and begs the documentation of the process itself.

What form will the new works take? Large-scale outdoor installations are seductive and indeed possible in the wide-open desert expanse. Origami cranes can fly through open space creating a path in a void. Painting is always a pleasurable, and easily accessible method of entrance and re-entrance. And beauty of course, never dies.


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