Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Outsider Artist's Landscape - Ultimate Found Object Art

Every time I head out to I-90 toward the mountains for a hike, I pass this house and have said many times that I must get a camera and record the marvels there.  Having grown up and traveled along country roads in the deep American South, I am familiar with yard art, bottle trees, and the bricoleur landscape architect.  I am fondly fascinated by such unrestricted self expression on a large scale, irrespective of neighbors' wishes, zoning laws, or other peoples' definitions of beauty or sanity.  It is, well, inspiring.  It tells me beauty and fascination are free for the taking, if you rummage around what others discard. 

So today, with nothing in my way, I made an "art date" with myself, found a parking spot on that busy street, and without making to much of a show, snapped a few shots.  I had scripted a response if the owner took umbrage, I would say how much I admire the art work and sense of unrestricted freedom expressed there.  Definitely sincere about that, but I was relieved to escape notice.  One doesn't want to tread upon the sensibilities of an enraged artist, after all.

What is so fine about this particular installation is, it sits right smack-dab in the middle of Seattle, yet it is definitely a bit of the grand tradition I first saw in the South.  And it reminds me of the many Southern Black People who also share a lineage of Native Americans, like my friend Dave, who is just about 50/50 African American and Cherokee.

So, at last I have been able to take this project off the back burner and run with the inspiration I have found.  First the research must begin on yard art, outsider art, and roadside fantasies.  And Amazon was just the place to browse the books.  I found 4 good titles (will add them to the blog later) there and ordered them used and in good condition.  Very economical.  All in the spirit, you might say, of getting the best out of what comes to hand.

These shots were tinkered-with, as for once Seattle was enjoying a very bright bluebird, er, make that bowerbird, day and I just shot it with my little sketchbook camera.  What I really hope to do is to achieve the deeply textured, unaffected, assembled but uncontrived, richly fascinating approach this artist has to the use text, paint, chains, locks, baby buggies, old tires, plastic bags, bottles, red berries, string, wood, pine cones, rope, bottle caps, milk jugs, tires, exhausted light bulbs, and anything that comes to hand in our consumption-oriented, throw-away urban environment.  How fine the inspiration of an unfettered mind!

And this inspiration reminds me of one of my favorite paragraphs by an American writer, Ernest Hemingway:  "If you serve time for society, democracy, and the other things quite young, and declining any further enlistment make yourself responsible only to yourself, you exchange the pleasant, comfortable stench of comrades for something you can never feel in any other way than by yourself. That something I cannot define completely but the feeling comes ... when, on the sea, you are alone with it and know that this Gulf Stream you are living with, knowing, learning about, and loving, has moved, as it moves, since before man, and that it has gone by the shoreline of that long, beautiful, unhappy island since before Columbus sighted it and that the things you find out about it, and those that have always lived in it are permanent and of value because that stream will flow, as it had flowed, after the Indians, after the Spaniards, after the British, after the Americans and after all the Cubans and all the systems of government, the richness, the poverty, martyrdom, the sacrifice and the venality and the cruelty are all one as the high-piled scow of garbage, bright-colored, white-flecked, ill-smelling, now tilted on its side, spills off its load into the blue water, turning it a pale green to a depth of four or five fathoms as the load spreads across the surface, the sinkable part going down and the flotsam of palm-fronds, corks, bottles, and used electric light-globes, seasoned with an occasional condom or a deep floating corset, the torn leaves of a student's exercise book, a well-inflated dog, the occasional rat, the no-longer distinguished cat; all this well shepherded by the boats of the garbage pickers who pluck their prizes with long poles, as interested, as intelligent, and as accurate as historians; they have the viewpoint; the stream with no visible flow, takes fives loads of this a day when things are going well in La Habana and in ten miles along the coast it is as clear and blue and unimpressed as it was ever before the tug hauled out the scow; and the palm-fronds of our victories, the worn light-bulbs of our discoveries and the empty condoms of our great loves float with no significance against the one single lasting thing -- the stream."

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