Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Dunes of Vista Chino

Overnight, the road to Orion's daycare has been transformed. One westbound lane is gone, the other is partially buried under pseudopods of sand, some reaching into the eastbound side. The wind is still blowing. It's like driving through a fine, dry blizzard. Bulldozers will scoop up the dunes and dump them back onto the desert floor. The plows will scrape up the rest and we humans in our little machines will buzz through, running our individual errands. We chug happily along, knowing we've managed to maintain the slowly expanding border between the the area we've dug up and paved over and irrigated and changed to our liking, and the ancient living desert. The mountains haven't even acknowledged our existence.
The desert can be a brutal environment. Lots of things here have very short lives. Plants, animals, landscapes, even rocks, relatively speaking, can be overtaken. Practically anything man-made gets eaten up by the heat and the wind. We're constantly digging ourselves out, replacing windshields and windows, throwing away plastics that have become brittle, wood that's warped, fabrics thinned and faded. The roads crack under the weight of the winter's water. The pieces shrink away from each other in the sun. The sand creeps over all.
A couple of hours away, in LA, people are squabbling about how celebrities are getting better seats at the fashion shows than fashion editors and buyers.
And right here on Vista Chino, which was partially eaten by the desert during the night, I'm digging in my purse with one hand, fretting over whether I remembered Orion's sunscreen and wondering which list of have-tos I should tackle before I can get back to the studio and make some art that might help me make some sort of sense of all this crap.
So the desert keeps pushing back and we have to work constantly just to stay here. I don't know why yet, but I think I'm beginning to get a hint of it . I think for me, maybe it's the extreme give and take of the place. And, actually, being in an environment not quite right for humans is not a bad thing. It lends a certain perspective.
I finally get back to the studio to work on the Neil Gaiman sculpture. I've started at the bottom, with the frog Neil stepped on and the pipes the frog is sitting on and around. I've started to add some new textures and a few new puppets and other elements from my newer work.
It's sort of weird, tampering with a piece like that. Changing it when it's been so long just as it is.
The wind rattles at the doors.
George Lucas did it with Star Wars. I minded that he changed the gunfight between Solo and the bounty hunter. I thought Solo's character should stay as it was, shoot-first, so to speak.
I look at the sculpture I made for Neil. The purist in me says to leave it well enough alone. The artist says it's a living thing, let it grow. Cover over the old textures with something new.

In the afternoon Vista Chino is clear. But when I get to the street where Orion's daycare is, I have to park a block over and walk from the car. It's closed off with cones and markers.
The city, it seems, is repaving it.



Carl V. Anderson said...

Great analogy, the Han Solo thing bugs me as well.

However, I'm sure what you'll do will make it even better than it was before. It is rather an odd thing to change something that you've created. Its actually quite a statement about Neil Gaiman's trust and faith in you as an artist to let you take something that he obviously loves the way it is and let you change it...to make it grow and evolve. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you will do with it.

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous post about the 'living desert.' I've been a little overtaken by drifting plains--planes--lately...going to China in Sept., with a Big Plan to see Mongolia. Here's a link to mountains of shadow: http://www.techgroup.ch/jahlrep/_private/pics/mongolia/ChongorinEls1.jpg

and vasty fields of dreams: http://www.techgroup.ch/jahlrep/_private/pics/mongolia/ZweiGers.jpg

since visuals instigate words--or maybe the other way round (I hope links in comments are okay).