Once upon an art field trip
Memoir of a day spent rambling and exploring is the title of this triptych. It’s an honest title. There was one year of my life, 2004, when I was back on stable ground following a few years wrestling with divorce, and I was living in place that was basically a garage with two small bedrooms, a small bathroom, a small living space, and a narrow kitchen. Some things during that year just clicked with me. I was a madman learning to play the guitar; I had an acoustic that plugged into a Marshall practice amp, a few pedals that had been given to me by the Chicago musician and artist Eric Brown. I lived in the environment of a single guy. Imagine loud times, complete with bottle caps, a key to the door that opens into the blissful creative moment, and an overwhelming and hungry drive to get on with my life. I was working out my problems through music. I was hanging out with like-minded peers, participating with them in regular sweatlodges. And also I was learning to shoot film through a hand-me-down Canon AE1 that my stepdad had purchased long ago during a stint in Korea (I came in at the end of the film movement).
Living a few blocks away was the contemporary facebook artist Matt Thiesen. He and I pursued the leaderless and carefree art movement often referred to as: “Wevegotnothingbettertodowithourfreetimebuthangoutdriftaboutandcreateart.” During this time we made a lot of really great art films that I still watch and say: “How cool was that?” It was a terrific time. We would load up my truck with our gear, leave Bradley, cross the Kankakee River and travel west to Salina and Essex townships. These were places where we could wander about the stony gravel roads, looking for things that were cool and places we could explore. One autumn day in 2004, Matt and I went out to an abandoned bridge that crossed Horse Creek. It was a seasonally great day. Sunshine. Wool sweater and jeans weather. [Look at the signs in the artwork; I have to admit I'm fascinated with rural man's desire to shoot his rifle at rural signs. It's as if the lack of game and huntable moments drives him to utter frustration.]
Matt and I had been to that bridge numerous times. It was an interesting remnant of a recent people, leftover like their remaining corn cribs and barns. Horse Creek, which ran beneath it, was my favorite rural outpost during my youth. I spent a great deal of time pedaling my bike five or six miles with the Snedecor brothers and my own brother to daytrip in the water; we’d seine for carp and bass and whatever else we could capture in our broad net. It took two of us on either end each holding wood poles, whose tips were continually poked tight against the bottom so the dragging net scraped the bottom; upstream would be the other two, splashing in the water, laughing and such, driving all creek organisms directly into the net. Then the four of us knew to work together to lift the net so it would retain the greatest amount of our catch, and we would just stand around looking at what we found, which always included carp big and small, bluegill, largemouth and rock bass, minnows, the occassional turtle, numerous crawdads, and handfuls of other single species that we couldn’t identify. Then we would let them go. And we’d do it again. And in this way four kids would spend an entire Saturday out of trouble.
When you’re on an art field trip, you need nothing more than a vague plan of what you want to do. Bring some art medium along so you have something to work on. You could bring a journal, a camera; paints from a spray can, tube or gallon container; a guitar or drum; whatever. And be happy that you learned somewhere in your life (or you’re learning) how to occupy yourself in productive peace for an afternoon or an evening. You’re not bothering the world when you make art.
After Matt and I left the bridge we drifted about the gravelly haze of the backroads some more, stopping I’m sure here and there, and eventually our last stop us to a burnt out stone house that stood along Warner Bridge Road. It was a good subject. I had the film developed as 4×6 duplicate photos. Back then I was beginning to explore compose with photography, thinking of images not as individual things but more so as notes in a song. It was during the summer of that year that I got captivated by patterns; started my tessellations; and in general found myself being completely serious about my art. Memoir of a day spent rambling and exploring is arranged inside three identical frames. The frames were drilled into the appropriate edges, and I sewed the frames together with heavy leather cord. It’s taken me this long (it’s Saturday, October 22, 2011) to properly photograph a piece I made in 2004. This piece is available.