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DISPERSAL/RETURN 2000-2006 Land Arts of the American West

University of New Mexico Art Museum
August 28th to Dec 20th, 2009


My inspiration for this project comes from 18th century travelling porcelin sets, elaborate fine dining sets families ate off on their countryside jaunts. I was intrigued by this combination of ceramics, traveling and narrative, and in 1995 made Traveling Pottery Box, where a single user recorded a fictional voyage. However, this project inverses the order, and invites many users to record their experiences of travelling the land, framed by existential and humanistic themes, building a single communal artwork.

Throughout history, travelers have recorded in diaries their thoughts about sights seen, creating documents tracing and transmitting the events to themselves and others. In time the person fades but the document and the land remain. Land is essential, more than just something under our feet, we rise from it and inevitably fall into it, our lives are mere limbs granted mobility and extension from the land’s body. In drawing or writing it, we undertake a self-portrait. The document is culture, understandings we lay upon ourselves, to aid, guide, torment, enlighten, relate, comprehend, progress, and destroy ourselves. However, for those precious few original moments, everything is one.

For this interactive project, participants borrow a Travelling Box from the museum for a day and travel to a site of their choosing. There are six different boxes, Nothing, Fantasy, Shape, Beauty, Blood and Eros, elemental themes in our lives. Once situated, participants can write or draw upon the ceramic forms in the box using the provided ceramic paints and pencils, responding to the site and the Box, its theme and contents. After participants return the boxes, they are fired overnight and made ready for another participant to use the following day. After five or six participants have layered their drawings and writings over one another, the ceramic forms are glaze-fired to maturity, fusing the form and layered surfaces into one.