There are certain books that I read repeatedly over the years, books that exist as lighthouses to me on the often foggy waters of creation. If it were up to me I'd leave them in drawers in every hotel I visited for other travelers to happenstance across, become absorbed in, and moronically smile.
'Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees' by Lawrence Weschler is one such book. It's a distillation of 30 years of conversations with a beautiful artist, who is currently 87 years old. The book begins with this luminous tale:
"During the early seventies, when Robert Irwin was on the road a lot, visiting art schools and chatting with students, he was proffered an honorary doctorate by the San Francisco Art Institute. The school's graduation ceremony that year took place in an outdoor courtyard on a sunny, breezy afternoon, sparkling clear. Irwin approached the podium and began, "I wasn't going to accept this degree, except it occurred to me that unless I did I wasn't going to be able to say that." He paused, waiting as the mild laughter eddied. "All I want to say," he continued, "is that the wonder is still there." Whereupon, he simply walked away.
These images, part of a recent body of work shot in California, were made in the now abandoned tourist location Salton Sea. Salton Sea is Breaking Bad meets a Rothko canvas, and embodies what James Agee beautifully termed "the cruel radiance of what is."
While they look idyllic, they were less than ideal to make. The heat was 100F/38C, the dead fish washing up on the toxic lake waters perfumed the arid air, and the broken glass and trailers spoke to the hardship the remaining, isolated, residents live with daily. I often had to take a breath and return to this question - is the wonder still there? Can I forget the name of the thing seen?