AN INHABITED WEST
SOME DRY SPACE: An Inhabited West
My work is concerned with Western American space, both literal and metaphoric. In archival projects I’ve looked at humans venturing upon untouched lunar deserts illuminated by pure radiation, as well as that terrifying and mesmerizing moment about sixty years ago when we began to ignite our own stars. Each was a particularly American hour, resonant with frontier mythology, but also a larger species watershed in terms of how we conceive of – and relate to – the physical world around us.
The actual American West offers an uncovered land lit by clear light that is particularly suited to aerial examination, as well as enduring mythologies increasingly divorced from urban and suburban realities. For the last decade, I have been imaging over densely settled cities in the West as well as its more open areas, seeking to reveal what we do as a people and the enduring geological realities of where we do it. I use a hand-held large-format film camera and I have learned to fly a small aircraft and image at the same time with the help of an assistant. Over cities, where there is more aerial traffic and complex airspace, I work with small rented helicopters and happily leave the flying to others.
Some Dry Space: An Inhabited West is ongoing. The project will eventually comprise several published aerial “forays” into archetypal aspects of the contemporary West. I find it helpful to put images from each shooting expedition together in narrative sequences and hand-make mammoth artist’s books out of them. My imaging methods coalesce around instability in space, and the massive scale and quietude of the books compensate for this, balancing my practice. The big books are also seductive objects in their own right, with an intense tactility and descriptive authority.
In November 2009, Radius Books of Santa Fe released the first of a planned multi-volume series based on the larger handmade books, Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack. LA DAY/LA NIGHT was published in 2011 using an innovative dos-a-dos "Z" binding. The third Radius volume, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain, was published in December 2014 and focuses on the aspiration and collapse of the American Dream as seen through residential Las Vegas -- essays by Rebecca Solnit and Lucy Lippard.