Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency

Where I grew up with in Vermont I could see the whole Milky Way on a dark night. With the entire cosmos stretched out before me every night I thought of myself as a tiny part of the universe. This scale and perspective inspired me throughout my life. After 5 years living in San Diego I grew to miss the stars. This longing wasn’t obvious though it took years for me to identify the growing anxiety coming from the absence of the heavens.

It was only after listening to Randall Carlson podcasting with Joe Rogan (Joe Rogan Experience #606) that I realized what I needed to do. Carlson’s studies bridge many scientific fields. He is as passionate as he is articulate in conveying his many fascinating theories and his work often deals with time on the cosmic, geological, and anthropological scales. I highly recommend the podcast. In the conversation he recommends visiting high desert areas to look at the stars in order to get back in touch with the universe. Lucky for me there happens to be a high desert nearby San Diego. So, I planned a visit and went to Joshua Tree national park on Thanksgiving of 2015.

Joshua Tree was awesome in the most literal since. Every day I spent in the desert was a dialogue with the ancient. Surrounded by sand and bare granite and with the sun and stars as a constant reminder of the endless passage of time I became all too aware of my ephemeral existence.

I was so happy to get a dose of the universe again. The perspective that the stars give has guided humanity throughout the ages and until electricity it was a view available to everyone. I believe the insight the night sky affords is desperately needed. It is a unifying force that could help humanity solve some of our biggest challenges as a planet. It is that important. So take a trip to the desert or nearby wilderness and stay up all night.

Upon returning to San Diego I applied to the Joshua Tree Highland Artist Residency. I am happy to report that I have been accepted to that program and have been awarded the opportunity to live in Joshua Tree for seven weeks this summer to explore the ideas in the following proposal. The Residency culminates in an exhibition of the new works.

Proposed work

After recently visiting Joshua Tree for the first time I was amazed with both the geology and the night sky. You get a sense of time stretched out, unending, before you. Every granite boulder you traverse is unchanged since the beginning of human history. As I climbed to the highest pile of boulders in the area I couldn’t help feel connected to Joshua Tree through the shared experience of all the travelers that have come before and will come after.

My work thus far has used the imagery of the figure to explore different universal aspects of the human condition. Given the opportunity I would photograph site specific wire sculptures interacting with the landscape. These figures will then be removed and placed into the exhibition along with the photos. Together the two will examine the frozen sense of time in Joshua Tree and the ephemeral nature of humanity.

Growing up in rural Vermont I became an avid hiker and have a deep connection to the serenity found in nature. I suspect that by immersing myself in the high desert my work will be informed by the landscape and I look forward to this new perspective.

As I look forward to my sculpting in the desert I realize I will have limited access to materials and tools and won’t be able to place permanent objects in the landscape which will force a photographic element into my work. While the purpose of residencies is ultimately getting out of your normal environment and working closely with artists from other places I am equally excited about the inherent restrictions of the residency and incorporation of photography as a new medium. I find creativity is often sparked by limitations.

My seven weeks in the desert will start May 24th and the final exhibition is around July 12th . Keep in touch with my blog for more information leading up to the residency and weekly updates on my experience while there.