Tracing the Former World

June 6, 2017

The Mojave National Preserve is a special place, and has come to feel like a home to me as I’ve focused my work there throughout the past few months. I’ve been keenly interested in parts of the Mojave ever since learning of its particular landscapes from Dr. Mark Sweeney, a geologist who studies sand and dust. When I arrived in the Mojave myself and saw the huge Kelso Dunes with my own eyes, a particular area of study that Sweeney focuses on, I suddenly became as inspired to understand them as any scientist. My interest is not only driven by geology but a passion to represent the natural world with an emotional honesty.

In The Joshua Trees, 2017

I’ll start at the dunes, because that’s as a compelling place to start as anywhere. When you drive upon them, no matter which direction you’re coming from, or what time of day, they are imposing. Massive and glowing, they stand apart from the surrounding mountains like a beacon. The dunes are formed mostly from the sand that travelled from the ancient Mojave River, with a slightly rosy tinge. Accumulating over thousands of years, these giants have nowhere to go, so they just keep growing, staying mostly in place in the basin between the surrounding mountains. When I saw it on a map, it didn’t immediately click, but standing in the fan from the Providence mountains and looking toward the dunes, I clearly understood why they were there. The dunes are stuck, and have nowhere to go but up, and no place to migrate except in small little movements. Lots of new vegetation is helping to keep them in place now, too.

the massive Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve

Looking at these landforms gave me a feeling of immediate excitement, and curiosity still echoes through me. Did the ancient people who lived near and drank from the Mojave River see these dunes when they were half this size? What did they think of this massive land feature? Am I seeing something that is only a fraction of the size it may be in the future? I think a lot about the way that humans interpret the land and especially make meaning out of it. For me, the time and special circumstances it takes to build dunes like these is a unique offering that the Mojave captures.

exploring facies near the Cinder Cones region

In my exhibition, I pursue the same complexity of how time works within the Mojave and how we interpret it. The exhibition title, Tracing the Former World, is inspired by the writer John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World. It is a collection of his writing that assembles his insights with his ride-alongs with geologists into the field. The concept of a “former world” is one that I use to frame the past, and to help me structure my work in the realm of scientific thought. Geologists are very good at peeling back layers of the present in order to reveal a past topography. In my work, I want to share the ideas of a time and place that may not have occurred, or which only happened in the mind. There are parallels in this realm that I find compelling and I return to the science of geology to create a terminology for my landscapes. Places that you travel to in your mind, or revisit through pictures or memories, are not only intangible but are just fossils to the lived experience of the era that existed. I love the idea of the past, but I feel as though I spend my life trying to understand it and extrapolate from it. The work that I did in the Mojave was a scraping back of a thin layer of dust.

Meaning in the Rocks, 2017

Mojave Dreams

March 25, 2017

I recently returned from the first part of my artist residency at the Mojave National Preserve in southern California. The desert environment there is rich, multi-faceted, and full of life that is as diverse as the landscapes I encountered. There are forests of joshua trees, beds of ancient lavas, ephemeral streams that feed cottonwoods, vast playas of evaporite minerals, and huge sand dunes that I can only imagine will become taller as they age. If you know me at all, you know I am fascinated with rocks, and all of these forces are the ways in which the earth creates or destroys the current minerals that it has on hand into new constituent parts. I get now why my geology professor is attuned to this place and loves working here, but I think what I see is a kind of laboratory. There are all sorts of moving parts to this place that can be easily seen (trees, buildings, cars, asphalts, etc don't get in the way of observing here), and if you want to follow a wash for 500 yards, you can. Just watch out for snakes.

The Mojave Road near Kelbaker Road

This is a short glimpse of my travels along the historic Mojave Road, a dirt road that exists because it was a trail used by regional Native Americans for years as a path between watering holes and as a trade route. The only way missionaries, settlers, or early pioneers entered this desert landscape was because of this well established route. I've stopped to ponder the age and length of this trail, and inspect the "young" lava flow that reaches from the nearby Cinder Cones area and toward the road. It's amazing to think about human and earth's time scales here on the Mojave Road.

Here is where two time periods meet. The time of humans and the time of earth. If these young lavas were flowing anywhere from 8-10,000 years ago, early humans in North America were surely a witness to them. I find it remarkable to think of these events, moved by seeing the site of the basalt still sitting there today, right next to the trail I now walk on, believing somewhere in the myth-enduring part of my brain that this strange tongue of lava has reached its way from the mouth of the earth to lick at the humans walking by.

Molehills and Mountainbuilding

January 17, 2017

At An Angle

I hope you are all having a wonderful new year so far. As for me, I am struggling to regain my strength and my voice, as I feel very disheartened by the recent anti-science and pro-wall sentiments that seem to surround me. My choice now is to join with others that wish to see a brighter future, not one driven by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. I cannot help but to make art and writing that is influenced by this particular moment in history. To that end, I will be sharing my new works next month as funded by my grant from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio. The reception will take place on February 11 from 7-10pm at Studio 111 at 111 Lone Star Boulevard in San Antonio. My exhibition, titled "At An Angle," looks at the everyday pain and disturbance of the world from a different perspective. My goal with this show is to shine light on suffering, and to create small monuments to the moments that we let pass, with no record of their existence.

I will create a mountain out of a molehill, because the molehill is the every day, the ignored, and the forgotten.

Buy The Book Fair 2016

October 23, 2016

Buy The Book Fair 2016

Buy the Book is an annual event held at Central Booking, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As part of New York Print Week, Buy the Book 2016 will feature printmaking and book artists with exhibitors from around the country and the world in an intimate gallery setting. I'll be showing several of my recent works, including the artist books I created after my residency in Scotland this spring, and of course the wonderful project Fossils and Whispers that I created with Cat Snapp last summer.

Fossils & Whispers interior

MAPC 2016!

October 14, 2016

I just returned from the Mid-America Print Council Conference (in Louisville this year) and it was a pretty good time. I didn't get a chance to see nearly as many things as I planned to see, but I got to see people, and to me, that's what makes these things all worth the effort. I have realized over the years that I am privileged to have an extended group of friends that have become family, and to a much larger extent, a community of reliable and dependable co-workers, even if we aren't at the same institution. I feel like I followed the right path. People matter so much to me.

I finally saw Michelle again!

I'm not sure if there's anything else I want to add. I used to write more about what I saw and the amazing prints and "Whoa, how did they do that!"-- but now, I'm aging into the realm of being able to understand the intricacies of perfection. My expertise is not that of a master, but I find demos to be more engaging now that I can understand more of the concepts behind dot pattern warpage and paper shrinkage than I could as an early printmaker. But now I'm so tired of editioning that I hate the perfection. I embrace the idiosyncrasies and 22-year-old me would hate me for it.

I got to do a panel presentation at this MAPC with Lisette Chavez. We worked all summer on interviews and research for "The Printmaker as Collector" and it was a really fun and (I think) cool topic to share with other printmakers at the conference. We spoke about the overlaps between printmakers and collectors, including the need to have more than one of something, and the importance of variables and holding on to the tangible object. We delved into how collections influence certain artists and their work, especially the act of collecting, and what the whole process says about what we do as printmakers. Making multiples in a time of digitized media.

Me and Lisette getting stoked to give our presentation

All in all, MAPC was a great meeting of friends, as always. I miss them already.
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