Friday, September 18, 2009

When Faith Moves Mountains and Other Geographical Experiments



Slice of Time, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18"
private collection, Littleton, Colorado


"Experimental Geography explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide and possibly make a new field altogether." The spaces where realms collide--that's where hope resides.

"Experimental Geography" is a traveling exhibition, currently at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. Nineteen artists or teams of artists from seven countries have presented their personal "geographical study and artistic experience of the earth" through various mediums.

There is a film documenting "A Project for Geographical Displacement," a project by Francis Alys, wherein 500 volunteers formed a line to move a sand dune near Lima. Described as a "human comb," these 500 human beings "pushed a certain quantity of sand a certain distance, thereby moving a sixteen-hundred-foot-long sand dune about four inches from its original position."



Such a tangible metaphor for hope. What hope, combined with sweat and teamwork, can accomplish, on a monumental scale. That's what I call faith.

Equally moving was the "NOTES FOR A PEOPLE'S ATLAS." These were small printed digital outlines of the city of Albuquerque, on which residents had been invited to "plot their personal knowledge of places, histories, and ideas on the map of their community." The most poignant one for me included only two large penciled-in dots, loosely marking two locations, a couple of miles apart. Each was accompanied by a message. One said, "where I was raped, age 15." And, in the second location, "where I got my life back together, 14 years later." For that young woman, getting her life back together must have been as monumental as moving a sixteen-hundred-foot-sand-dune four inches. Even so, after 14 years, it budged. That's what I call faith.


99 comments:

ellen abbott said...

wow

San said...

Ellen, you understand such connections in art.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Wonderful concept! Thanks, San, for bringing to mt attention.

San said...

It is a concept after your heart, Nick.

Carol said...

Awwwww... Thank you for sharing this. It truly brought home to me how are is very, very intimate.

Whew!

smith kaich jones said...

Wow is all I can think of. Incredible & moving.

Debi

jeannette stgermain said...

Incredible! The human line to move sand as well as the woman who fought to get her life back. Thanks for sharing this!

self taught artist said...

dont hate me, but i dont get this at all. i DO get your painting :) and i like the color in this, fabulous!

San said...

Carol, yes, it is very intimate. Thank you for acknowledging that.

San said...

Debi, I know you would love the exhibition.

San said...

Jeannette, something about observing the monumental, collaborative art and then, the small, very personal art of bringing a life together connected some dots for me.

San said...

Paula, I don't see what's not to get, but I'm glad you get my painting anyway. I'm REALLY glad. Thanks, babe.

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

I wud like a map that had a pikcher ov the bak ov my hed on it, lookin at it.

San said...

Bob, I believe a major museum exhibition could be planned around the theme of the back of your head. I know I would go.

Maggie May said...

All that hard work for 4 inches! And the wind would probably blow it back again in no time. Sorry to be so pessimistic!
The 2 dots on the map where the girl was raped & then found her life 14 yrs later were much more significant, I thought.
We are like little ants beavering away at things but many hands do make lighter work.

Love your painting. Especially the rose pink colour & the turquoise & touches of dark blue.

San said...

Maggie, I like your ant analogy. So true!

And thank you for your kind words regarding my painting.

jsd said...

amazing...thank you for sharing.

San said...

Good to see you here, J.S.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

I call that faith as well, San. Time can be a problem if we expect timely results in our life sojourn...our journey just cannot be measured in time but in faith and hope realized.

San said...

Beautifully put, Mary Ann.

Thumbelina said...

Wow.
Thanks for checking in on me San. As always, you make me think, contemplate, ponder - but this time that faith has made me cry too. Wow.
Sickening and beautiful all at the same time. (I hope that makes sense and isn't sickening in itself.)

andrea pratt said...

This reminds me: if you ever feel so inclined I'd love it if you'd do a post on the difference between SF and your adopted home. Do you prefer New Mexico? If so, why? (Both places are so filled with romance.)

Velvet Ginger said...

"Wow" is the first word that came in my mind & see see many people had the same reaction!
Thank you for sharing this with us San, some people had earthquakes some landslide...you gently set the sand on to canvas for us.

chewy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chewy said...

How does one measure where a sand dune begins and where it ends?

A colony of ants move sand one grain at a time. Hard work done diligently for the support of each other.

"Slice of Time" brings to mind a slice of the earth whereby one can read the geological/environmental history of the world.

SandyCarlson said...

That is awesome. Wonderful. I love that story about the sand dune. What we can do if we just do a little together. Marvelous. Thanks for filling me with hope tonight, friend.

Poetic Artist said...

Wow..That is the only word that comes to me..This is such a wonderful post of inspiration and hope.
Katelen

Sugar Creek Beads said...

Wow, I know it was repeatedly said already but the word fits over and over. I was so touched by the dots on the map, on a very personal level, and it is more important than than even the "wow." Thanks for bringing this to us. Jeanne

Shrinky said...

Ah, so life-affirming. There is little we humans cannot achieve if we dare to have the faith to try. Thanks for plucking a slice of this exhibition up to carry home to us - I find it moving, humbling and filled with hope.

Dave King said...

A fine and interesting post, but Slice of Time is the jewel in the crown. Lovely.

murat11 said...

San: I love your eye on the young woman's two dots. I'd say she blew the sand dune completely away - all the way to queendom come.

Side note: I "rent" my dry-erase boards from my students, who invariably use them for daily-shifting murals. Most quiet, beyond quiet fiery-haired ninth grader has been drawing these magnificent giant women sprouting trees out of their heads and consumed in fire. She's moving her own mountains...

Sandi McBride said...

What beautiful painted mesa...I could see myself standing on the edge looking over...or that is what it seemed to be to me. I loved it!
Sandi

Raven said...

What a fascinating idea to literally move a mountain! A great metaphor and a great testament to what people can accomplish with passion, faith and inspiration. As for the comment on the map... another testament to the human spirit and to how much can be conveyed in 10 words. It's a long journey back from rape and incest.

Bennie said...

I found the looped videos in two adjacent rooms to be quite moving at the Albuquerque Museum. If I am remembering it correctly, in one room you looked through the windshield of a car as it traveled uninterrupted from Bethlehem to Tulkarm on Israel's West Bank. The text that appeared on a separate smaller screen indicated that the trip lasted one hour. As you moved along the hilly road, you could tell it was a well-paved highway. In the adjacent room you saw a video of essentially the same trip on the Palestinian side. However, this trip included various taxi & bus rides, a lot of walking through hazardous terrain, and the inevitable searches at several Israeli checkpoints. The text that appeared on the adjacent screen stated the trip took more than five hours.

This geographical art piece showed how social and economic conditions can vary considerably from one locale to another, even though these locales are separated only by a wall, or fence, or politics. One function of art is to present dichotomies in order to perplex the viewer or participant--to instill questions--to make one unsettled.

I found this installation to be poignant on several levels.

murat11 said...

Oh, and I love that big burgeoning purple mesa in Slice of Time.

Kim said...

I can totally relate to this right now. Blue Sky Dreaming ~ thank you for your thoughts.

lime said...

interesting. i have to admit my gut reaction to the sand dune thing is along the lines of, "how big we think we are and yet how small we truly are." it took 500 people how long to move a sand dune 4 inches? when natural forces or the finger of god (depending upon one's perspective) could do far more with no effort on our part. please understand i don't say this as a criticism of the display or in a defeatist/fatalistic sense, merely that for me it points out that in the big picture, i am more or less like a single grain of sand in that entire dune, but i don't regard that as a bad thing.

as for the two marked places on the map...well that just gave me goosebumps and i rejoice with the woman who found a way to endure. she moved her sand dune a teaspoon at a time perhaps but she persevered.

and your painting i simply love. the bright but soft colors with the sharper edges speak to me.

aims said...

The two dots stopped me cold in my reading dear San. I suddenly found myself wondering what my own map might look like. I see a map of Ontario with several red dots with the words 'abused/beaten here' beside them. Not a happy map at all.

re - your comment about the rafting guide. Yes - very accurate! A lot of the guides say the exact same thing. The responsibility for so many lives is daunting. Some breeze through it but others take it on like an albatross - worrying away and letting it swing from their neck as they yell 'dig hard' from the back of the raft.

San said...

Thumbelina, that makes sense. That makes SO much sense.

San said...

Andrea, ultimately I do prefer New Mexico, but, yes, both places are filled with romance, as is my birthplace, the rural South. San Francisco was my first adopted city, followed by Santa Fe, my second.

You've giving me ideas. Maybe that will be a post.

San said...

Rubye Jean, I love your metaphor of "gently setting the sand on the canvas." You have captured perfectly what is healing about art--the making of it as well as the viewing.

San said...

Dar, that's a very good question! As a matter of fact, where does anything begin and end?

Your view of the painting is exactly the reason I called it "Slice of Time." Smile.

San said...

Sandy--being filled with hope--that's what can really move the sand!

San said...

Katelen, I'm glad I was able to share a little bit of the exhibition with you. It's traveling. Maybe it will be near you one of these days.

San said...

Jeanne, it seems that you are not alone in your response to those two dots. Blessings.

San said...

Shrinky, it's an exhibition after your own heart. Wish you could see all of it.

San said...

Dave, your words "jewel in the crown" are making me glow from ear to ear. Thank you!

San said...

Paschal--"to queendom come"--that is so perfect here!

Your fiery-haired ninth grader is on a roll. Inspired by the fire within, which is ever-stoked by her teacher.

San said...

King, sadly, I missed the meaning of those videos on opposite sides of the wall. I remember being in those rooms, just briefly. I had gotten separated from the rest of our party, maybe riveted by the People's Atlas or something. When I got to the West Bank/Palestine project, everybody was leaving and I just got a cursory glimpse, not even realizing what it was about. I'm glad you wrote about it so beautifully.

Thank you, love.

San said...

P.S. to King: I found it so appropriate that after we saw this geographical show, we went to eat at that restaurant that had saved the cottonwood tree and let it grow through the roof.

Then we rode back to Santa Fe on the Railrunner, moving through the pueblos and the villages, taking in those big New Mexico vistas. The entire day was pure magic!

San said...

Sandi, I saw you standing on the edge and looking over. Then, you slowly vanished into the painting.

:)

Thanks for your beautiful words.

San said...

Katherine, I know you would find much in this exhibit to move you. I'm glad I could share a bit, especially those "ten words."

San said...

Paschal, I'll repeat: If you want to be my publicist, the job is yours.

San said...

Kim, yes, your family has been digging at a big sand dune of late. I'm so glad that Tom is home and showing improvement and that you have reason to celebrate finally.

San said...

Michele, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. And I appreciate that you envision yourself as a grain of sand, which you "don't regard as a bad thing." Said with humility and maturity by one who's "been there."

Now I am moved that my painting speaks to you. Thank you!

San said...

Aims, I'm sorry that your own map is riddled with sad dots. And I hope that one day it will be densely populated with dots of healing places, people, and events. I believe you are well on your journey and that your gas tank is full!

Akelamalu said...

Well as the old saying goes - Faith can move mountains! :)

b2 said...

Thanks, San. 1000K virtual hugs.

~Babs said...

Amazing feats,,in an amazing post!
So much to be said for joining hands and working together!

Wonderful painting,,,a real "two for one", this post!

San said...

Akelamalu: yup.

San said...

b2, I'm glad I'm on my laptop with the cable connection. I was able to download all the KB. Thank you!

I'm honored that you took the time to go to my blog, what with all you're in the midst of right now. I loved talking with you yesterday. LOVE.

San said...

Ah, Babs, your "twofer" comment has me smiling. You are such a supporter. Thank you.

Kim said...

Emotional - what a great word, but often not enough to express what it is one feels, I think. The story you share about the 14 years of struggle to have a moment of hope is one of those times when emotional just doesn't do it justice. At least that is the way it seems to me.

I would love to see the cooperative map. This idea of participatory art is powerful for me - isn't that what the earth needs? The earth is a powerful form of participatory art in process!

A beautiful and delightful post. I also adore your painting - lucky owners!

Lynette said...

What a powerful, glowing and mysterious pink cliff landscape, I love this painting San!

Daryl said...

I am in love with the painting and found this post very moving .. thank you for posting it..

Peter said...

Hi! First off the artwork is awesome. Even without the post title I imagined the earth being sliced with a knife.

The people moving the sand dune back, is akin to turning the clock back and something all of us would like to do in regards to the destruction we have caused here on earth.

Knowing that the sand dune will again move forwards, is there any hope for us in changing what we have done to Mother Earth?

I would like to think so!

Take Care,
Peter

San said...

Kim, viewing the earth as a form of participatory art in progress is just so to-the-point! When to pitch in, when to refrain from meddling--those are artistic decisions we all have to make in this life.

And thank you for your kind words about my painting.

San said...

Lynette, thank you! It seems that several are seeing a landscape here, a cliff, a pink one. I like it.

San said...

Daryl, I knew you would "get it." You always do.

San said...

Peter, we do have our work cut out, don't we? I always appreciate your optimism!

And your vision of the painting as "the earth, sliced with a knife"--I'm awed.

Celebration of Life said...

Wow..., San! As I read this blog, I had thoughts and feelings on several levels. I identified with the girl and the dots (as you know I have had several dots in my life that I had to connect. I can also see where we as humankind should and can move mountains whether it be healthcare reform or living "green". For one person with faith there is a lot to accomplish, but if we work in sync, we can accomplish a lot in no time! Where does it begin and end? It begins within each of us and doesn't end until the task is completed. :o) Jo

Flannery said...

Wow mom, somehow I missed both of those exhibits, and I'm sad I did. You have a way of picking out things that others don't see. I myself liked the collection of breaths it takes to escape Manhattan.

Sunshine said...

San.. what a lovely outlook towards Geographical experiments.. enjoy reading it...

Thanks for sharing with us

Love
Sabi

Anna said...

Hi San, if I wasn't a blogger I probably never knew about moving the dune, thanks for sharing. I call that a faith too. Thanks for sharing my friend. Anna :)

San said...

Jo, I thought about you when I was thinking about that girl's dots. You have moved some mountains with faith and determination.

And you understand the work that is cut out for us as a people.

San said...

Flan, I almost wrote about the breaths and the escape routes. I too loved that exhibit! It was hard to describe, however.

San said...

Sabi, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for visiting--you always bring Sunshine!

San said...

Anna, yes, blogging is great, isn't it? We connect our dots with everyone else's.

:)

Nishant said...

Wonderful concept! Thanks, San, for bringing to mt attention.
Web hosting india

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Fantastic post, San!!! What an inspiration!!! Thank you!!! ~Janine XO

Elizabeth Bradley said...

One grain at a time.

San said...

Hi Nishant. Thanks for visiting.

San said...

Janine, you're back! How exciting!

San said...

Elizabeth, sometimes one grain can weigh a ton. No?

layers said...

Thank you visiting my new blog and leaving a comment. Isn't it amazing what 'community' can accomplish? I have a strong interest in land art as well.. and the spirit conveyed in your message is compelling.

The Things We Carried said...

Phenomenal ventures. Literal mountains being moved.

San said...

Layers, I look forward to learning more about your interests and your art.

San said...

Things We Carried, I don't believe I ever told you this, but that's a phenomenal profile pic you carry with you.

indicaspecies said...

Geographical study and artistic experience, and the juncture where the two realms collide and possibly make a new field! That is very interesting San. Did you check out all 19 presentations?

Elise said...

FAB

San said...

Celine, I tried to, although it was a lot to take in. You would love the show I'm sure.

San said...

Thanks for the visit, Elise, and the succinct, kind comment.

plentymorefishoutofwater said...

Wowza, your blog is inspiring. Food for thought. Mine's a bit more trivial - about my dating disasters. Check it out if you get a minute: http://plentymorefishoutofwater.blogspot.com/

Diane said...

Awesome reminder! Thanks. :O)

A New Beginning said...

Amazingly thought provoking!!
Thanks!

Chuck fka: Meanie said...

Mee kawvd mee Jakohwantoon San! kum dee it on mee bwog!
Wuv,
Chuck

plainolebob said...

San, these tales are moving, I don't normally leave one, but in this case, I thought you might like it,if not please accept the apology.
http://plainolebob.blogspot.com/2009/10/ok-for-those-that-have-asked-and-wanted.html
Big Hugs

Meg Wolff said...

San, What are you up to? You must be painting?

jingle said...

awesome,

;)