The geologist sees rock formations atop plates drift on the rolling currents deep in the Earth’s mantle, Those rocks crack and open up from the processes of erosion to hollow out a cave. Where the deposits from dissolved minerals collect to form a myriad of shapes called speleothems.
The spelunker puts on a carbide lamp equipped helmet, kneepads to prevent hamburger knee, and carries piton spikes to drive into cracks as needed to belay into the glistening underground space that upon first sight appears as if it were made to appear that way. It’s a brilliant display of mysterious intention by something far greater than any human achievement. Yet it is the dizzying reminder of how random the visual state of terrain actually is. The hand of erosion carves and sculpts without regard for the spelunker’s eyes met with such a vision on an immense scale of time.
The philosopher enters the cavern through the mind. Sees the cave dwellers who only see shadows as reality. Witnesses the journey back into the darkness after seeing the outside world and experiencing its glaring truth. The light so strong that it cannot be forgotten by its witness imbues the cavern’s folds with the philosopher’s thoughts.
My legs push back against the precipice. My arms wearily hold the instrument as my eye peeps through the lens and my finger trembles to press the button on feelings exceeding a single frame. I could not survive out here. I am but a wanderer passing along this winding, perilous path. Blinking and glimpsing at something too powerful and raw to live beside with any of the comforts required to establish a productive way of life. Yet this is their home, their pattern, their habit, and their comfort. These dream-like forms, others simply call cormorants, gird the steepest drop back into the crashing swirl of sleep. Above the unfathomable chasm and below the infinite dome, a brood scratches its way along these stone faces of bulky severity. What wild ideas am I witnessing that can claw into such an impregnable form? Am I to believe that these are just cormorants stringing along the rocks whose random patterns of erosion drain into this dark sea? Just another iteration of genetic code replicating itself in this random display of meaninglessness? While they are scaling the deepest interior of my dreams and emerging as the shadowy forms from the deepest slumber? Even when this sublime scene awakens with a fervor of gargoyles ascending a cathedral in my mind’s eye?
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild, So solemn, so serene, that man may be But for such faith with nature reconciled; Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood By all, but which the wise and great, and good Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel. From Mont Blanc by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Dedicated to everyone who has passed away from COVID-19. Rest in Peace.
New York is a lotus flower with giant petals. If the petals were put on the floor, their terrain is so immense that each one would cover a small town. Between the petals, pathways weave in and out of this labyrinth. Go in one direction and the petals unfold before you as they fold back behind you. Turn around and the folded unfold again. The journey on one side of the lotus becomes a journey on the other.
New York is a lotus flower with infinite pathways. Step on the path and look at the petals loom overhead. From any standpoint, the petals blend into transitory formations that embody the supreme randomness out of which came its design. See how the petals twist and turn together into a vertiginous dance. If you whirl clockwise to find your way, the whole flower turns counter-clockwise. Take a rest and the place where you stood has already shifted away from where you thought you were but a minute ago.
New York is a lotus flower of bright light. Every petal has a thousand pores radiating. Every being that lives there bathes in its glory at one time or another. Its hive energy buzzes anyone who steps on its pathways and delivers them toward the light they seek. It is a flower of knowledge and know-how. It’s a beacon to the world. It’s a place of heartbreaking beauty and all the dimensions of tragedy, too. And whenever it seems to die it is reborn. And it gains even more petals which in turn create a seemingly infinite array of new pathways to explore.
The Process: About a year and a half ago I found out that I had an opportunity to studio-sit in Manhattan (otherwise there’s no way I could afford it!) for two weeks. I treated it as an artist’s residency but on my own dime. To prepare, I poured over as many photographs of New York City from great photographers like Edward Steichen, Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, and countless more to study how NY was depicted/experienced by others. Yearning to contribute some way of looking that I hadn’t come across yet embracing all that I have seen. I spent hours thinking of my previous experiences there and how the city felt to me as well. The dominant theme was that of a labyrinth but I was unsure of how to convey that feeling. By the time I arrived in NYC, I had my notebook of ideas on what to try, but after many days, I felt like it wasn’t working. When I could sleep, though, I entered half-dream states where I was ceaselessly wandering through the outer terrain internalized. And then, it came to me. The simplest of ideas. I tapped into this feeling of the buildings unfolding before me like a thousand petals of immense scale. Yet also scattered in my mind’s eye these petals came from all over town. Then, this boiled down photographically to two images juxtaposed together in a diptych. Two images of these buildings from different areas had to be brought next to each other! And once I got to develop them, some blended together, some grated against their companion, and others twisted and turned into uncanny forms from simply placing them side by side in an embrace of the fundamental experience of randomness. After a year of developing them, this is what you see now.
Where to purchase: They are for sale at www.society6.com/oneroundcorner. There are prints and framed prints available (the largest size will be the best), in addition to some having small items available like pillows, clocks, iPhone cases, and such.
Favorite? Of course, I’m proud of all of them but if I had to pick a personal favorite, it’s New York is a Lotus Flower #4 because it references zip paintings by the New Yorker Barnett Newman and I always think of them when I go to New York since I saw them in person for the first time at the MOMA many years ago. If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it! Thank you and enjoy!
I’m a child again. The car seems like a cavern on wheels. Mom and dad are yelling at each other. I slink to the back row and slump down to look up and out the window. I brace myself for each violent bend in the road by the river. The gravity pulls me with a force greater than my entire being. I fear we may slide off the road.
My sweaty little hands hold on to the seat as I press myself into it with my feet. The momentum hurls forward as the brakes squeal. Dad bites his fist then punches the ceiling rapidly. Mom screams bloody murder.
We take another turn and I feel that dread of being on a rollercoaster beyond my threshold. I stare up at the trees pirouetting away, as my body is jostled at the whim of this death car. Gushing downstream, they are heading for their abyss, and I, unseen and forgotten, am along for another ride.
Decades later, I return to the river roads of Colorado. I sit on the rocks at the bank of the river. It’s movement is as big to me now as that car was when I was a kid. The turbulent water mimics the chaos of my parents. The domineering boulders loom over me and cast blue shadows on the whitewash. My eyes catch momentum with the tortuous river. Its roar drowns out the distant screams of memories.
And the flow carries me to another river. A smoother river with gentle turns and a wider pathway. An ancient river who has the most curious objects floating down it. On the banks, I wait and collect whatever comes my way. The water has particles in it that sparkle with the warmest light. It washes over the rocks in a cleansing way. The soft sand molds itself to my foot. If I swim in it, it’s as wide or narrow as I want it to be.
This is an ancient place of sustenance for people of cultures formed along rivers all across the world and ever since we’ve been a species. There are currents of this water that flow from the oldest rivers of consciousness. It’s where Charon waits with his ferry.
My familiarity with this deep river feels etched into my biological self. The habitual patterns of ancient people gleaming along my nervous system like the golden light slipping over the surface of the river.
And the feeling of being in a vessel far bigger than me returns. Only this time, the car has transformed into a ship who forms to whatever shape the river takes.
And so I play River Man by Nick Drake. And his melancholic tone twists and turns into the most delicate sentiment. The beauty of sorrow transformed by the flow of guitar playing. There is an immensity of courage in this kind of work.
Where tragedy becomes art. Where trauma and loss are whitewash, more process than cause for resentment. Where everyone must navigate a path within this overwhelming flow of shared consciousness.