Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Faces

Driving south to the delta lowlands, this morning, I passed a caravan of Mexicans towing empty vehicles. My assumption was that they were hauling auction-purchased vehicles from St. Louis to the deeper reaches of the south for resale at used car lots. It wouldn’t have been even a noticeable occurrence if it had been just the standard one car pulling another via chain as is so often found in the southern Midwest… but this was literally a troupe of seven to eight vehicles dragging that same number of ratty trucks and beater vans down the interstate with little more than a rusty chain and a prayer. The fact that all the drivers were Hispanic in a region once empty of their presence… jolted me.

This place I once called home has changed drastically in the ten years I’ve been away. The corn and bean fields of my youth have been replaced with rice paddies… driving-up the number of mosquito infestations in the region, without the added beauty of the terraced hills found in stereotypical National Geographic images of southeast Asia… few mountains exist in this flattened river bottomland and occasionally I forget the loveliness of the people and the food and the culture and my reasons for living here… and simply dream of once again climbing high and reaching for distant mountain peaks in other places I once called home. Not all change is for the worse, in fact often change is nothing more than a new face on an old routine.

I’m putting the final touches on my scroll paintings for the show at the Morris Graves Art Museum in northern California. Morris Graves, the artist, traveled the world and eventually found his solace in the northwest, painting the last of the evening light as it dangled over the Pacific. Rebuffed by critics for his ink paintings on paper that resembled Asian motifs and adopted-imagery, slammed especially hard for his attempt to create hanging scrolls in place of traditional stretched and framed canvas. I find a kinship with this man, a commonality in practice, though our work may present differing views of society. I feel justified in this next show, a natural progression in my travels… to exhibit in a place named for a fellow traveling painter imbedded in the process of making art and the arrogance to continue painting when not everyone “gets” it. – DN

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