I’ve just returned from my trip to Utah in pursuit of earlier denizens, the Anasazi. Like the proverbial tourist, I won’t know what it was like until I’ve seen my pictures. Not because I never took my camera from my eye — it was there less than 1% of the time — but because the trip is not over yet. I’m done exploring the canyons for now, but I’ve just begun to explore the latent content of my experiences and the images captured by my camera. That will take longer, and I know there’s plenty of discovery still to happen. Nevertheless, one idea can be identified that is not entirely a surprise.
A line from June’s recent post on abstract expressionism struck me: “It’s big. You can walk into the art.” That’s how it felt walking up and down the streambeds between cliff walls. In the large there were the regular forms and desert colors we know from O’Keefe. But limit attention to a smaller canvas, and the jumbled geology had a much more abstract feel. Depending on the sandstone layer, it was reminiscent of the rounded shapes of the Krasner, the planes of the Frank, or the dark confusion of the Hartigan that June showed us.
My opening image, with its stark, jagged pattern of light and shade, is rather like the Clyfford Still style we’ve talked about, and which I seem to have an affinity for. The next makes me think of Diebenkorn, though I don’t really know his work that well. Of course, color was important to both those artists, which suddenly makes me want to look into color versions of these images; something for another time.
But these are not, after all, imaginary compositions; they are real places. To the extent the images are documentary, like most photographs, they provide some objective information about the world. But my wish (I’m with you, Sunil) is to have their abstraction also convey meaning. That the human traces are small compared to the “meaningless” rock, and are mysteriously hidden, is fully intentional. That’s both real — most ruins are hard to see at first, second, even third glance — and a subjective impression that is one aspect of how I feel about these places. This is work in progress, but some themes are emerging that will probably remain in final versions.
How do these images work for you? Are the ruins too hidden, did you look away before noticing them? (This will certainly happen if you’re not seeing gradations in the dark parts of the image, like the equal step gradations in this monitor check.) What do they remind you of or make you think about?