A lot of amazing people are working on the theme of humans’ relationships to the places they live—the planet as a whole, and the micro-ecosystems of each home, thinking about how we relate to our neighborhoods and local environments. My work on this topic has begun with an investigation of the work of others, from looking over my colleague and co-teacher Doug Dertinger’s shoulder at his decades-long research into visualizing landscape, to reading the new book by Suzanne Simard about her research into forest intelligence, to speaking with my friends and neighbors about the plants they nurture and the creatures they observe on their farms and in their gardens. This exhibition is an invitation to you to enter this research alongside me, and it’s a question to you as well—what else should I look at? What else should I think about? How do you think about and engage with land, with your physical home? I’ll be in the gallery to hear your answers, paper and pens will be provided, or you can send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org
An important part of my work so far has been to create a dialogue with my students at Sacramento State University. Over two courses—one in the fall of 2019 co-taught with Doug, and one in the fall of 2020—we investigated first a particular place, Old River Road, which traces the Sacramento River and connects agriculture, water infrastructure, tourism and transportation; and then the nature of a physical relationship to a physical place, which culminated in a digital exhibition you can still see at www.photo175.org. I asked a few of my students to re-present their work here. These are the pieces I find myself still thinking about and wanting to push forward. They represent elegant solutions to the problem of visualizing abstract, physical, and spiritual ideas about place, and I am proud to have worked with the early-career artists who made these images: Alejandra De La Torre, Cameron Getty, Joseph Roman, Will Kraintz, Patricia Pearson, Alyssa Dougherty-Whittock, and Sovathyda Chea.
I have found that digging into the nature of our relationship to place—as individuals and as societies, contemporary and historical—makes me feel an enormous sense of loss. Not for what we are about to lose, which is beyond my imagination, but for what we have already lost. And the “we” there is really an imagined “we”—I don’t know exactly who it contains, because many people before me have been fighting to hold onto place-based culture and relationships. So I’m speaking for myself—it’s a selfish grief. It’s for what I know I have lost and am not sure how to find again. It’s for something I know my daughters need that I can’t offer.
What’s presented here in this gallery is a series of experiments. I am searching for the right questions to ask to get us talking to each other about these themes, to get us learning from each other and from our places in new ways. I hope they will become a series of visual portfolios, a series of interactive modalities, and the continued dialogue between me and my students. I hope they will help me hold places in my heart and mind in new ways, while learning how I am held by places. I hope they will help us reorient ourselves.