Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Working in the Travel Muse Industry

Italian Fashion, Chinese Labor "When the first Chinese, their suitcases filled with cash, arrived in the early 1990s and leased their factories, the Italians laughed at them. But now that their numbers have quadrupled and they own a quarter of the city's textile businesses, where they make 'Made in Italy' fashion at 'Made in China' prices - often illegally - the newspapers are full of op-ed pieces about the "yellow invasion," low-wage competition and the Chinese mafia." Der Spiegel 09/11/06

It is exactly this type of societal conflict between traditional cultures in exotic locales that spurred my concept of the immersion travel art movement. Just reading the full article, from the above link, makes me want to sell-off everything I own and hop a flight to Italy. The question though is how to best insert one’s self into the competing cultures of the populace. In Montana, I taught at the local high school and was able to both fund my innumerable trips around Montana, Canada and neighboring states; as well provide for a manner in which to drop myself into the lives of the life-long residents of a traditional small-town community on the High-line. While there, I was able to record nearly every meaningful interaction in a nearly-complete series of over 400 paintings.

New Mexico, and Santa Fe - in particular, has provided a unique opportunity to use studio-based-time to meditate on the growing regional fusion of immigrants (both from other states and countries) and the role they play in this 300-year-old high desert village.

Author, Brad Newsham, has written some amazing travel literature of places both state-side and abroad. My favorite book by him is called “Take Me with You”. Here is his own summary of the travelogue:

This book, published in 2002, is my account of a 100-day backpack trip around the world. Up front I tell the reader that I will be inviting one person from the trip to visit me in America for one month - my treat - my only criteria being that it be someone who would otherwise never have the opportunity to leave his or her own native country. I describe the cultures, sceneries, and adventures I encountered in the Philippines, India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, and profile dozens of strangers I met along the way. Toward the end I tell the reader which stranger I finally did invite, and in the final section I describe our taxicab trip across America together during June and July of 2001.

He draws both his means for travel and his subject from driving a cab. He’s educated, culturally well-rounded and inspired by his choice to associate with individuals from all walks of life on the basest of levels – he’s literally “the guy” who takes them where they need to go. That has to be one of the most seemingly perfect gigs for someone whom documents travel.

Charles Kerualt had another one of those great careers in travel. The majority of his life was spent driving around the nation, collecting stories. Where people had been, where they wished they had gone in their youth.

One evening while searching online for an old family acquaintance from my youth; I ran across his 40th high school reunion page. Of course he had written little about himself, from what I remember he was always pretty close-mouthed on that subject – probably due in fact to all the questions, he had to regularly field, regarding how he lost his right hand when he was only eighteen. His classmates, though, wrote some of the most amazing biographies of their lives. Despite the common argument, “I am not my job” – often, in the examples I read, these reunion biographers’ day jobs impacted all their other interactions, as well as how they socialized upon retirement. Whether they left for California, ten minutes after graduating from twelfth grade in Mountain Home, Arkansas; or raised children to sit in the same school desks as their parents - they all had one thing in common, a life worth recording. – DN

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