Saturday, November 21, 2009

The List (to be completed in 8 days)

I am only blogging about this to hold myself accountable. This is the main reason I am turning into a hermit over Thanksgiving vacation with only plans of making a tangerine polenta cake to bring to Maura and Mark's house on Thursday. All of a sudden everything is coming to a head with this project. Nancy and I were accepted into the Rehearse, Rewind, Repeat: Photography, Video, and Performance (thanks Kelli!) exhibition at Ohio University and I need to build two frames for the 20x30 prints that will be driven to Athens, Ohio in early December. We are lining up studio visits for my December visit to Houston. Then there are the deadlines for exhibitions, residencies, etc. In addition, Hannah and I have to move the diorama out of the sculpture area before break so it needs to have the foam topography done and ready for David to paint before school ends for the semester. There is nothing like having six days off school to finish this!

At long last! We have an artist statement! AND a title for the series.

[Bank artists' collective writes in the margins of press releases which they send back to the galleries who sent them stamped with the “Bank Fax-Bak Service – Helping You Help Yourselves!” logo. They give marks out of ten for pompousness.]

3 weeks, 6 earthworks, 1 portable studio, & ALL that lies in between
Jacinda Russell & Nancy Douthey

We spent three weeks in the summer of 2009 in a rented SUV driving across the American West creating art in response to six famous earthworks: Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and Amarillo Ramp, Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, James Turrell’s Roden Crater, and Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field. This pilgrimage also featured an investigation of the “in between”: Wayne Thiebaud meets Ed Ruscha in the form of floating fake desserts in enticing swimming pools, a performance at the Chinati Foundation with a stuffed blue bear, cleaning the Sky Walk at the Grand Canyon, and conversation maps that record how we truly arrived at our destinations not just the terrain.

3 Weeks… is not an historical or theoretical investigation. Instead we are creating ephemeral responses to artwork that is in some ways very destructive to nature. We are interested in time – how we became more aware of how time looks and how time passes by the sheer amount of hours we spent at each piece in isolation or watched by a solitary observer. We are interested in humor as it is far easier to talk about these artworks in a contemporary context because their status is so serious in the canon of art history. Humor is one way we enter into these works when we want to make serious commentary rather than being confrontational. It is our way of discussing the political and often difficult issues associated with them: gender, economic elitism, destruction and permanence of the land.

Nancy Douthey brings a feminist approach to a predominantly masculine genre of art when using props like bright pink prom dresses, cans of peaches, and blue tulle in her performances. The act of repair is clearly feminine when she takes on the role of Michael Heizer filling the tire tracks in the center of Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. Jacinda Russell comments on loss and renewal in The Burial of Three People, Two Places, and One Time Period when she inters objects from her past at each location.

The sites are also expensive to visit and some are inaccessible to the general public. Visiting them is often exclusively reserved for a certain economic class. This is exemplified in the performance We Got the Time and the Goods and are Happy to Write You a Check. Paying Our Way into Lightning Field, Quemado, New Mexico. Our use of technology through the blog In Search of the Center and the twitter account str8tripnn were primarily created to make these artworks more attainable for a general audience that extended beyond outdated photographs in art history books.

This collaboration is also about the journey – getting lost along the Mormon Mesa while attempting to find Double Negative, relying on others to take us to the artworks, and the people we encounter along the way. This does not occur while viewing artwork in the traditional “white cube.”

The photographs, performances, and video are just the first chapter. Artists’ books, drawings, and sculptural objects will soon follow.

Sophie Calle's Burial Project

I was having dinner with Amelia last night and she mentioned a series from Sophie Calle that she saw at her retrospective in Brussels this past summer. Calle was invited with several other artists on an expedition of the North Pole and posted this blog entry about burying her mother's jewels as far north as they would travel.

"She had a dream. Go to the North Pole. It was a part of our life: One day she would go. She died two years ago having preserved her dream. I guess that’s why she never went. I never had this dream. It was hers. But I was invited to go to the North Pole. And may be I went a little for her. To take her there."

Sophie Calle's image of a portrait of her mother, her necklace and ring.

When burying objects at earthworks, I knew they would not stay underground forever. Calle discusses this too when she writes, "I wonder if her glacier will advance or retreat, if the climate changes will carry her to the sea to be taken north by the West Greenland current, or retreat up the valley towards the ice cap, or if she will stay on the beach as a marker in time where the glacier was in the holocene period. And maybe in thousands of years, specialists in glaciology will find her ring and discuss endlessly this flash of diamond in Inuit culture. Or if a treasure hunter or beachcomber will discover it and exchange it for a house in the mountains of Grenoble."

There is an obvious difference in value between the objects Calle buried and the ones that I did. On the other hand, if someone found the photograph in tact (unlikely), there would be a direct identification between owner and their possessions. More often than not, I wonder what state the cup, belt buckle, and pile of papers would be in if indeed someone unearthed them. For the most part, I want them to be disintegrated beyond recognition as a stack of newspapers would be prone to do but not necessarily a porcelain cup or plastic Eiffel Tower.

The Disko Bay expedition sounds phenomenal after reading through the list of participants including Laurie Anderson, Feist, Suzan-Lori Parks, Nicole Krauss, and so on. Now that's the residency we need to get Nancy!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nancy and Mark - Please Move to Marfa

So I can come visit you there.

An article in the NY Times today.... makes me miss the Thunderbird Hotel and swimming pools Ed Ruscha and Wayne Thiebaud style and of course the food!!

Todd Eberle's photograph of Donald Judd's studio

Sophie Calle from "The Chromatic Diet" - eating food all one color.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Land Arts of the American West

I vaguely remember learning about the Land Arts of the American West when I first visited Spiral Jetty in 2005. From their About page:

"Land Arts of the American West is an ongoing experiment in an interdisciplinary model for an Arts pedagogy based in place. The Land Arts program provides students with direct, physical engagement with a full range of human interventions in the landscape, from pre contact Native America architecture, pictographs and petrogylphs to contemporary Earthworks, federal infrastructure, and the constructions of the US Military. Land art includes gestures both grand and small, directing our attention from potsherd, cigarette butt, and track in the sand to human settlements, monumental artworks, and military/industrial projects such as hydroelectric dams and decommissioned airfields."

They just published a book through University of Texas Press which I promptly put on Interlibrary Loan.

Some relevant projects from their website which draw a correlation between what Nancy and I did at each earthwork follow:

While our work is more ephemeral in nature, these artists created earthworks in response to some of the same sites we saw. The most often asked question when discussing our project is "When are you going to make your own earthwork?" Aside from this diorama Hannah and I are constructing, I have not had an interest in moving earth around as I am still more interested in borrowing from the pre-existing artwork and creating something from it. We'll see... but in the meantime, it was fascinating to find these works as another example of a contemporary art form inspired by Land Art.

More on preserving Spiral Jetty

From the New York Times
(though I am not a strong proponent of this since it wasn't what Smithson wanted to do in the first place).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Drawings taking form

Hannah and I are taking a week off for research (i.e. finding appropriate photographs for models, investigating paintings of the American West landscape, buying paint and gesso in Columbus, and reading Modelling Terrain, etc.). In the meantime, here are our drawings of how all these earthworks are going to fit into what now feels like a cramped space.

Night will fall into sunset from east to west and storm clouds will approach Amarillo Ramp and Lightning Field in the east. Spiral Jetty will extend into the backdrop with some of Salt Lake painted into the horizon. In addition, Sun Tunnels will be aligned with the sunset.

How does it compare?? Still too early to tell...

William Wegman, Parko, 2006

Friday, November 13, 2009


Hannah and I are prepping drawings for the diorama today. We opted to remove the plywood due to the fragility factor and replaced it with easily bendable masonite. Here we are with the first coat of gesso.

I've gathered some statistics which we may or may not adhere to in our "fantasy landscape." I foresee the most difficult scenario would be making Lightning Field taller than Roden Crater in a 4' space. Fantasy indeed.

Roden Crater:

Scale = 1.8 miles across
Elevation = 5347’ or 5356’
Latitude & Longitude = 35.425º N, 111.259º W

Lightning Field:

Scale = 1 mile x 1 kilometer, 400 poles, 220’ apart
Elevation = 7200’
Latitude & Longitude = 37.25818º N, 122.0536º W

Double Negative:

Scale = 1500’ long, 50’ deep, and 30’ wide (initially)
Elevation = 1312’ (hmmm... really?)
Latitude & Longitude = 36.3655º N, 114.2040º W

Spiral Jetty:

Scale = 1500’
Elevation = 4195’ (fluctuates)
Latitude & Longitude = 41.2615º N, 112.4049º W

Sun Tunnels:

Scale = No exact dimensions found but Holt bought 40 acres, ¼ mile square
Each tube is 18’ long and 9’ wide
Elevation = 4472’ (Lucin, Utah)
Latitude & Longitude = 41.1121º N, 113.2740º W

Amarillo Ramp:

Scale = 140’ diameter, 15’ tall (and shrinking)
Elevation = 3668’ (Cadillac Ranch since I couldn't find anything closer)
Latitude & Longitude = 35.1732º N, 102.737º W

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coming Soon: Our Artforum Cover

...but in the meantime here is Gabriel Orozco's with Cat in Jungle.

Final Cut on the Performance Photographs

Blue Bear Performance at Chinati, Marfa, Texas

Wearing Fake Moustaches as Sideburns on a Windy Day in Amarillo, Texas

Walking Up Amarillo Ramp in high heels to ride on the memories of hearing “Hi-Yo Silver, Away”

We Got the Time and the Goods and are Happy to Write You a Check. Paying Our Way into Lightning Field, Quemado, New Mexico.

Cleaning the Sky Walk at the Grand Canyon with Roberto

Fly Like an Eagle Uniform for Performance at Sky Walk, Grand Canyon

A man watched us from an SUV on top of Roden Crater as the whip cracked on our grand opening parade.

Michael… Jackson (28 June 2009)

Wind Current and Gravity at Double Negative (Resulting in One More Climb Down into the Cut to Retrieve What Fell In)

(A still from) The Imaginary Bike Ride in the Clouds at Double Negative

At Double Negative There’s Still A Positive – You Get Cell Phone Reception

Listening to Vibrations Across Double Negative

Lines of Communication at Double Negative

Barefoot at Sun Tunnels for Four Hours

It’s a Man Job: Filling the Holes at Sun Tunnels to the Point of Exhaustion (One Hour)

Michael Heizer Makes an Appearance at Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels

Six Hours Later, Exhausted at Spiral Jetty

(A still from) a dizzying hot pink prom dress whirling at Spiral Jetty.

Hot Pink: The View the Passengers Saw from the Airplane Above as They Circled Over Spiral Jetty

Final Cut on the Rest of the Photographs (with titles!)

The Last of the Polaroid Film: Two Exposures Each at Six Earthworks (Traditional and Family Vacation)

From the air, Roden Crater looked like a glazed doughnut and that also remained true from the ground.

Cowgirl as Scale at Double Negative and Amarillo Ramp

Pink Hot Dipping Doughnuts From the Bonneville Salt Flats to Marfa, Texas

Ten Second Zen at Sun Tunnels Two Days after the Summer Solstice

A Trail of Collection Bags at Spiral Jetty Containing Salt, Rocks, and Snake Skin

The Scenic View Point at Spiral Jetty

Friday, November 6, 2009

Models (or Bending Plywood is Not Fun)

We routed an eight foot piece of plywood, wet it down, and were completely scared of breaking it as we fit it inside the diorama today. Unfortunately, the wood we bought was too fragile to bend the opposite way so we have a lot of filling and sanding to do before we get a smooth surface.

It looked so empty inside without anything so Chet finally took the portrait of us sitting in it. We are guessing this thing will weigh a couple hundred pounds (sans us) once we are finished.

Here we are covered in wood dust. One day here soon we will be at the point where we are working on the interior. Until then there is joint compounding and sanding to do. I have to find elevations, longitudes, and latitudes for these locations as well. I will admit to being a complete dork by just putting a book called Terrain Modelling on interlibrary loan. It's amazing how many volumes there are on building military dioramas. None on scale models of earth art!

Of course this is very reminiscent of the Menil Collection's scale model which is up there with one of my favorite things.

... though I was never truly happy with Vik Muniz's interpretation of it in his series Model Pictures.

Published in SPOT magazine, 2002 written by yours truly:

"The Menil Collection commissioned Muniz to create a piece specifically for FotoFest 2002 based on the artwork in the collection. Muniz discovered the Menil model on a site visit and was immediately drawn to the exact rendering of every sculpture, painting, and icon in the foundation’s collection. Unlike many institutions who use the color copier to reproduce art work, the pieces in the Menil model were hand crafted by Mark Flood, Doug Laguarta, and David Warren. Each room is represented in miniature proportion; it is a fascinating object borne of meticulous execution, used to visualize exhibitions before installation. It is no wonder that Muniz was drawn to its scale and detailed craft.

After photographing a number of the maquettes, Muniz decided to narrow the field and use only Surrealist art works. Since the Menil is famous for its Surrealism collection, this was a logical decision. In an interview with Matthew Drutt, Muniz also revealed that he selected well known Surrealist images because it is easier to deceive the viewers who enter the exhibition with preconceived ideas about the original work of art. The majority of the objects in Model Pictures are reproductions of the work of René Magritte and Man Ray, with token representations from Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, Gustave Doré, Alberto Giacometti, Odilon Redon, and Giorgio de Chirico. The resulting exhibition includes twenty maquettes photographically enlarged to the scale of the original paintings. A section of the original model resides in the center of the installation.

The rephotographed reproductions are hardly accurate renditions of the original artwork. Detail is lost in the process creating a quality similar to a xerox of a xerox of a xerox. The inherent imperfections are magnified, emphasizing the dings, smudges, and unblended shifts in color. Magritte’s Le chant des sirènes, looks as if it was rendered in crayon; a rubbing over pavement to create the texture of the background sky. There is a subtle clash in surfaces – the smooth, nonreflective photographic paper contrasts with the textured quality, which is heightened in the reproductive process. The photographs also incorporate the original and sometimes overly elaborate frames, creating a false illusion of depth on a two-dimensional plane....

....Absurdity and humor are essential components in Muniz’s work, as witnessed by his painted silhouettes of bovines on white cows and two portraits of the Mona Lisa, one in peanut butter and the other in jelly. These two elements, along with the artist’s laborious process, are absent in the far more serious Model Pictures. He relies on found objects, merely documenting someone else’s reproduction of art rather than creating the work himself. He depends on a fascinating, existing object to carry the installation, but ultimately, it is not taken far enough..."