sunset over the north rim looking towards hopiland
dinner with pink cloud
full moon rising
the view towards flagstaff
last weekend i painted and pasted a kiosk in bitter springs. there was a family there occupying one of 6 available kiosks. upon returning from a wonderful weekend on the east rim of the grand canyon, jamaal and i stopped by to see how last week's pastings were holding up.
they were holding up well. now there was a second vendor occupying the stall closest to the pastings. i stopped to say hello to lorenzo and his mom. they acknowledged that last week's installations were bringing more people to the kiosks but primarily to the stall closest to the pastings. they hadn't sold much jewely over the past week. lorenzo's mom asked that i put something up closer to them.
Flagstaff Photography Center asked me to do a presentation tomorrow night on my wheat pasting project on the reservation. I put a power point presentation together about how I started doing the project. I included images of work by JR and will comment in the presentation tomorrow on how I felt upon first seeing this work. In truth, it's the same way I feel now in looking at JR's work once again - absolutely blown away.
He's got it all - technical prowess, imagination, the ability to produce gigantic installations and seemingly unlimited financial resources. It's enough to make me ask "...why bother?"
And then there's Fauxreel in Canada blowing the shit up.
Again, the question "...why bother?" haunts me. I thought about titling this rumination "me versus them." But it really isn't me versus them. It's me and them. Because we're working in the same medium doesn't mean they've exhausted everything that can be said in it (though JR has come damn close).
While preparing the presentation for tomorrow I came across a poignant quote from comrade Keith Haring that resonates with me. In fact, back in the 90s when I was doing what I called the Urban Guerrilla Art Assault in Flagstaff (posting photographs in public spaces), both Keith Haring and Diego Rivera were strong influences. Haring wrote in his journal October 14, 1978:
"...The public has a right to art. The public needs art, and it is the responsibility of a 'self-proclaimed' artist to realise the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for the few and ignore the masses."
Boom! And that's where I come into the picture. JR and Fauxreel aren't making art for people on the rez (although I extended the offer to you JR). And besides, just as Eugene Smith and Eugene Richards shot black and white humanistic photo essays, each had a different message. Eugene Richards didn't look at Smith's work and ask "...why bother?" If he did, he figured out a reason to keep moving forward leaving his distinctive mark in the world of photography.
It's not a competition. It's about personal growth and the journey with the art form as the medium. My journey has been incredible so far. So, to my peers - here's to moving forward together.
(i don't know lux but i like his/her stencil work.)
lorenzo checking taking a break from vending to check the process
bitter springs, az
There were several highlights from this morning. Once again I awoke early (4 a.m.) to head out for a one hour drive to cameron. The sunrise was subtle. Nothing too dramatic, yet when I look at the first 3 photos above, I'm reminded how beautiful the light was this morning.
Just as dawn was fading I unloaded my big ladder against a billboard I've been wanting to hit for some time in cameron. I noticed that there was a house about 75 yards away which I hadn't noticed for some reason before. What's worse, they had dogs that wouldn't stop barking at 5:45 in the morning. Not good. I thought about it as the sky was getting lighter and lighter and opted to let this one go. Just after I finished loading my ladder back onto my car, a truck came over to check me out. No one got out or tried to stop me as I left.
I went about 100 yards away to the tank and pump house where I'd pasted before. When I looked in the pump house, there was a small puppy all by himself. Though it wasn't cold, he was shivering. I started pasting and within minutes, he was out eating the paste. It had occurred to me that perhaps he hadn't eaten in a while. I got a laugh out of him climbing up to get water from my wash bucket and falling head first into it. He was my companion while I pasted.
A family from nearby came to visit for a bit and invited me to come back to paste their trailer. I love Cameron. As I drove away, I remembered the puppy was under my car about the time I saw him scampering away. Yes, it was a good morning in Cameron.
At Bitter Springs, there was a mother and son in one of the 6 vendor stalls. The other 5 stalls were vacant. They were just setting out there jewelry. I walked over, introduced myself and told them what I wanted to do. The woman said "sure."
Not too long after I started painting, the boy walked over to check things out. His name is Lorenzo. He hung out with me for about an hour. One car stopped to check out their wares during that time. I told him that I hoped the art work would bring them more business.
it's good to get your ass kicked every once in a while. it keeps you humble. this evening, mine was kicked.
i went to the windmill/water tank near the 98/160 junction with the image of wesley ready to go. i pulled up to the tank around 8 p.m., took the ladder, chalk and a tape measure out to identify my landmarks. while on the ladder marking the tank, a truck from the home nearby came rushing up. the driver demanded "what are you doing?" he was in a huff.
"putting art up," i replied.
"not here. i don't want anything else on this tank. i've called the police. you need to leave."
it occurred to me that trying to explain the project to him wasn't going to get me anywhere. he drove off saying "i got your license plate number."
i told him that if he wanted to find me i live and work at the clinic. it didn't seem to register. he was irate.
truth be told, this was the guy who owned the kiosk where i pasted the peyote mandala a year ago. it was my 3rd pasting ever. less than 24 hours after i'd pasted it, he'd taken it down. by 36 hours, he'd taken the entire kiosk down. something told me i should have gone back to talk with him but i never did.
mandala and kiosk before being dismantled
so, there it is. not everyone loves and supports the project. flustered but undeterred, i drove over to the cow springs trading post ruins to put another piece up there. a youth named darien rode up on his bicycle and hung out with me while i pasted wesley. (and by the way, i had the same experience of having super watery paste that i had in cedar ridge recently. note to self: in hot weather, make the paste with 4 cups of flour rather than 3.)
darien, a navajo goth of about 17, asked why i was putting pictures up and if i get paid to do it. i love that. do you get paid? anyway, i told him that the project was about sharing art, respecting elders and a way of life that's fading. i asked him what he thought of the project to which he responded "...i've seen the pictures all over and wondered who was putting them up."
yeah, i said but what do you think of the project? "it's good," he said. "not too much happens around here." i asked if this was the most exciting thing that had happened all week? he laughed and asked "have you ever gotten into trouble doing this?"
"funny you should ask, " i said.
in truth, i've not gotten into trouble doing this but told him that a nice thing about wheat paste is that if someone doesn't like an image while it's being installed, you call always pull it off the wall. he said he was going to take wesley's picture down so i could put a picture of him up. i told him i'd hook him up (hoping he'd leave wesley's picture up).
Long day; I'll start at the end. As Joerael and I were putting up the last piece, Garland, a guy from the community who'd stopped to talk with us, looked up and said "....O shit! There's an accident happening!" I looked up to see a white SUV about 100 yards away rolling over several times in a cloud of dust. It was absolutely surreal.
I jumped into my car and drove to the site in a culvert where the vehicle came to rest upside down. The passenger was already out of the vehicle and was alert, oriented x 3 and in no acute distress. The driver was alert but still restrained in the vehicle. Other people were on the scene by this point and we were able to free the driver. Amazingly, no one was injured.
Meanwhile, it was great reconnecting with Yote and meeting Joerael to hit Gray Mountain. Ed Singer, painter, traditional elder and Cameron Chapter President, stopped by with Sonja Horoshko to give us love and support. I'd really hoped Ed would paint something but he seemed happy spreading wheat paste and stabilizing the ladder for me. As always, it was great having people from the community come hang out with us.
highway 89 north headed toward the north rim of the grand canyon
This pasting began last night and boy, was it one of those days. I left home around 6 pm headed to Page to pick Jamaal up so we could go pasting on the remains of a beautiful slab rock building on Highway 89 in Cedar Ridge. I'm guessing the building dates back to the late 1800s, similar to the Old Red Lake Trading Post. It's about 85 miles from my house.
Jamaal lives in Page with him mom, some 55 miles away but in route to Cedar Ridge. As I was approaching Page, traffic came to an abrupt stop about 10 miles outside of town. There was a 2 vehicle accident. A rescue helicopter was landing just as I stopped. Forty five minutes later a second helicopter landed. At this point, several cars in front of me turned around and found a dirt track access road paralleling the main highway. Wanting to get on with the pasting as the evening sun was getting low in the western sky, I followed. After bumping along at 5 miles an hour for about 3 miles, we got to a point where the traffic on the access road came to a stop. Now there was traffic stopped on both the highway and the access road. I waited here about 20 minutes. When I got out to see what was going on, a "dualie" truck was stuck in stand. After 20 more minutes of helping to push, we got him out. Of course the traffic on the highway had been flowing for 10 minutes by the time we got the truck out. The community of strangers made of locals and tourists all laughed saying we should have just stayed on the main highway though we were happy to have gotten the truck out.
I got to Page, picked up Jamaal and away we went into the setting sun with another 30 miles of driving to go. We got to the site and set up quickly. I slipped into my coveralls, opened the wheat paste container and to my surprise, it was as runny as water. In my year of wheat pasting I've never seen that. It still had substance and body when I left home. All I can figure is that it overheated when I rolled the windows up to go help push the truck out of the sand. Anyway, we got the lamb and kid piece up with the watery paste but I didn't want to risk putting Wesley's photo up. Since the sun was down, I decided to return early in the morning (since this was an unsanctioned hit).
To my surprise, Jamaal, my 13 year old, too cool for school, son not only said he was interested in coming back in the morning, but that he'd just come spend the night over at my house. Now, this is a big deal. He hates coming over to my house because "...it's boring." Boring? Hardly.
We got home at 11 last night. I made 2 fresh pots of wheat paste while Jamaal watched the loop of sports "news" that ESPN runs every 30 minutes. I can't tell you how many times I heard that Lebron James may be going to the Knicks but there's a remote chance still he'll stay in Cleveland. (We're hoping he stays in Cleveland.) I shouldn't complain about Jamaal's interest in sports. As some one pointed out to me recently, the one thing about playing organized sports is that it teaches discipline and has delayed his introduction to the drug and alcohol scene in school.
At 5 a.m. we were up and out of bed. Actually, I was up and out of bed. Jamaal was crashed out in front of the t.v. which was still looping the same sports "news." I let him sleep until 5:40. By 6 we were on the road headed back to Cedar Ridge. We started working at 7:30 and were done by 8:15. I was afraid the barking dogs would alert folks to our presence. If they saw us, they didn't seem to care. Regardless, it was a beautiful morning for sharing art and stories with my son.
wesley barlow's last portrait (03.94)
mad respect to faux reel and jr who explored pasting faces on similar surfaces: