--> Perspectives on Place
  Who We Are     How We Work     Our Activities     Tools & Resources     News & Events  
Tools Database
Case Studies 
Document Library
Web Resource Directory
Scenarios E-Journal
Perspectives on Place
Recent Posts Subscribe to this blog's feed

Subscribe in NewsGator Online

Subscribe in Rojo

Add 'Orton :: Perspectives On Place' to Newsburst from CNET News.com

Subscribe in Bloglines

« Shopping Wherever, Living Wherever | Return to Perspectives On Place | Detroit, Hollywood and the Next Innovation Opportunity »

Paint Me a Picture

Everywhere I turn these days, contemporary artists are taking on land use and changing patterns of place as core themes for some very powerful social commentary. Of course, artists have been constructing and deconstructing visions of the land since the very roots of art in the Upper Paleolithic. But increasingly, it seems, artists are taking on the growing gulf between our romantic view of the American landscape and the reality we are creating with each decision we make - or defer.

For example, in the July issue of Metropolis, there’s an article about a new exhibit at Arizona State University’s Museum of Art called New American City: Artists Look Forward. Most striking in this exhibit of Phoenix artists is Matthew Moore’s monumental land art intended to explore his ambivalence at the sale of much of his family’s Maricopa Co. farm to developers. Moore’s 30-acre installation recreates the plan of a subdevelopment proposed for the farm – including driveways, cul-de-sacs and 250 homes – using sorghum and wheat! It’s not, refreshingly, intended as a protest piece so much as a way to stimulate critical thinking about changing patterns of land use in one of the fastest growing corners of America.

The same issue of Metropolis featured an exhibit called REimaginations that’s billed as the “world’s first wind energy art exhibit.” Curated by Andrew Perchlik, a Vermonter and Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont (an association promoting wind energy for the state), REimaginations is an effort to use art to show the beauty of wind turbines as symbols for a sustainable future. Like Moore’s work, the pieces in this exhibit are meant to provoke new ways of seeing.

Finally (and this is all in one week!), I stopped into Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on a rainy day last weekend and was mesmerized by the large-format color photos of Laura McPhee now on display there. The photos in River of No Return were all taken in central Idaho (including Blaine County, where we have a Foundation project) and capture “images that address Americans’ conflicting ideas about landscape and land use and our values and beliefs about our relationship to the natural world.” These images subvert the iconic-ness of the West’s landscapes. While each image draws you in with its gorgeous color and execution, on closer observation you come to see that all is not well on the range.

All just further confirmation that planning is as much art as it is science. These artists are doing us all a great service, creating what John Thackara calls “social fictions” that hold up mirrors to our current behavior and point the way forward toward new ways of seeing and being in this world.

John Fox

The comments to this entry are closed.



© Copyright 2005 Orton Family Foundation. All rights reserved.