Monday, June 14, 2010

Over the past few weeks several people have asked me to include a little more about what I'm working on, so here goes. Above is a detail from a painting I'm still struggling with. I'm interested in playing with ideas of and obliteration and erasure. I've always loved maps and history, so I've been looking at the idea of how places can be wiped out and then papered right over, or built upon, and then others go on about their business with no idea of the destruction beneath their feet. But of course some people do know, and do remember, and so that must alter their feelings about the place.

Above is the corner of Holmes and Reva in Cerritos, California. I used to drive past it on during the late 1986 after an Aeromexico plane came down, wiping out 10 houses, damaging a lot of others, and killing a total of 83. First the debris was cleared up, then there was a big dirt lot for awhile, and finally, after I didn't seem to be driving that way anymore, big giant houses when up to replace the more modest 70s ramblers surrounding them. And now, if you go to, you can see that one is for sale for 950K. I'd be surprised if there was any mention of the history of that plot of land. And would it matter to you? Would you feel as though you were buying a house of spirits? Does what you don't know really not hurt you? (Do I sound like Carrie Bradshaw trying to be Isabel Allende?)

Anyway, with the boon of Google maps, it's possible to drop in on places we remember that have been altered, that carry some memory of fear or horror, and see what the look like now, after the events/construction/activity of a few decades or a few centuries have obliterated their appearance and rearranged the atmosphere of the place.

Do you have places you recall as especially interesting or powerful? Were they meaningful only after you read about the history of the place or did you have an instinctive response to the place before learning its past?

P.S. If you'd like to read more, there's a short LA Times article written 10 years after the crash. I found it interesting that almost no one agreed to be interviewed and those questioned told the city they did not want any commemoration of the event. Only one family of those who lost relatives stayed in the area (and that family is interviewed.) All the others left.


  1. My encounter with your painting here is probably similar to what you told me about your experience in beautiful Taksim Square, with its history of massacres.

    "What a lovely painting," I said to myself . . . and then learned the truth behind the scene. The painting is no less lovely now, but yikes! Wonderfully disquieting.

    Thanks so much for sharing it.

  2. Thanks - still playing around with the amount of definition vs. mystery to include.

  3. To my eye, the painting stands up very on its own, without knowing the "back story", but learning what is buried underneath in a previous layer of time, makes it all the more compelling. I find this post and the whole idea of layers and layers of civilization fascinating. In Renaissance times, artists studied human anatomy, even disecting corpses, with the idea that one must know what is underneath the skin to meaningfully render the surface. Perhaps something similar could be said for artistic renderings of our present surface layer of civilization.

    I got a good chuckle with your rhetorical question invoking Carrie Bradshaw and Isabel Allende :)