In Process: Electric Desert 2.0

Coming soon: The Electric Desert 2.0, at Harwood’s Open Studios, Friday 9/7 6-8pm at the Harwood Art Center, 7th & Mountain in Albuquerque. The Desert will pop up again!

The first iteration of “The Electric Desert” happened a couple of weeks ago as a pop-up installation within Tortuga Gallery’s group show, “The Good Life,” which my paintings are a part of. It was made in a sprint, and came together at the last minute, thanks to the intuitive vision of Jon Pearson, who improvised a soundscape across the pop-up’s whole day. Thanks to discussions with Jon, and with Abq artists Karen Hipscher and Bruce Davis, a handful of juicy questions came up that have been feeding my desire to iterate on “The Electric Desert” again. So I will!

Why succulents? Succulents are beautiful. They generally express a kind of clear geometry that isn’t as immediately obvious in other plants–a repetition of form that makes math palpable. Like a half-remembered word on the tip of my tongue, succulents seem to hold an understanding of the universe tantalizingly close to consciousness.

Succulents are also hugely popular as aesthetic objects. To judge from the dizzying array of Instagram hashtags about them, succulents and cacti are huge all over the world. There are a few discernible formulas in the images about these beautiful plants, such as: tiny plant, tiny vintage pot, and big textural background of pastel colors. Especially millennial pink. Or crazy tall cacti, like skyscrapers, odd and yet striving, in front of a textural wall in the dry light of Baja or SoCal or Goa. Succulents and cacti have been lending their brand of authenticity and hipness to products of all kinds. 

I’m fascinated by the collision between the two views above. There’s something tantalizingly close in images of cacti–something I can feel, but can’t understand, exactly. And there’s something alluringly close in my experience of Abq’s very mundane prickly pears, something that makes drawing them almost impossible. Every drawing and painting is an attempt to articulate these seductions and obfuscations.

Why an electric desert? I listen to the podcast Rune Soup, run by Australian genius Gordon White. “Artificial and natural… those are just Enlightenment concepts.” THAT blew my mind–and clarified what the heck the Electric Desert is about. 

The Electric Desert presents solid things that have paintings of saguaros, ocotillo and prickly pears on them. These paintings consist of positive and negative spaces. So in effect, the Electric is made up of solid things that aren’t there, and illusions that are. Just like the desert, when we walk through it as enculturated beings. Which we all are. The Electric Desert is a quick, crude way to embody the post-Enlightenment view we are all living in, right now. 

Make sense? If you do, you’re way ahead of me. I get these ideas in my head, but I have to MAKE them physically in order to feel it in my bones. And the Electric Desert does make for a very rich experience, it seems to me. 

More later, art lovers! See you soon!

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