Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nature and SUV's

We went camping in the Sonora area of the Sierras for Bruce's birthday. On the first morning, Bruce did a 4000 ft hill climb on his bike, to the top of the Sonora Pass (10,000 ft up) and back. I did nothing of the sort. (I'm not capable of such cardiovascular feats.) Instead I went for a hike and took pictures related to my current project. Although "leisure time" generally makes me anxious, I actually found the trip very helpful in terms of visual and conceptual research for my project. This area epitomized the monster-SUV/ monster-truck culture that partially inspired the piece I'm working on. And then of course there was the "nature" thing, which is also relevant to my project. And also there were the helicopters frequently overhead with their balls of water that looked too small to put out any fire, and the sound of people shooting at something for hours at a time. And the knowledge that those little chipmunks running around were carrying fleas that in turn carried the Bubonic Plague, still with us so long after its heyday.

But back to art: because I now have a deadline for this project, the project I thought I would be pursuing this summer will have to wait. I delayed starting it because it involved an uncomfortable level of intrusion on other people's space(s). I'll have to keep thinking about how to approach this, because I still think it would make a cool piece, and perhaps the individuals whose spaces I want to use can be convinced that it's cool, if I get up the nerve to ask. I guess it's just something that comes with the territory of being an artist: apologizing and explaining a lot, and frequently looking ridiculous.

My former professor, James Elkins, writes at length about the uncomfortable relationship of artists to "the rest of society" in his book, Why Art Cannot Be Taught. He first explains that artists' educations are myopic and just plain inadequate compared to the education of doctors, lawyers, engineers and so on. He then discusses the ways artists have generally been perceived throughout history. "Today the situation is significantly different. According to the newspapers, artists are something of a blemish on society-- or, more strongly, they are parasites on public largesse, or just jerks. The general attitude of the public, as it is reflected in the media, is annoyance."

Hmmm... my colleague in the Industrial Design department insists that I'm a actually a designer. People like designers, that's what I should be. Both artists and designers turn perfectly good "raw materials" into useless stuff. On the whole, though, I'd have to say that artists produce fewer cubic feet of useless stuff annually than designers, who are aided by mass-production in the dissemination of their stuff.

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