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Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis
Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Fine Arts
Jack Stenner, Committee Chair
Wes Kline and Shepherd Steiner, Committee Members
School of Art + Art History
To the art that understates its immediate encounter then avails upon memory with a
After Smithson, Crater Lake National Park
National Parking was conceived in a station wagon with my wife, Becky Blanchard.
Her support and feedback have been invaluable to the development of this project.
Jack Stenner and Shepherd Steiner have gracefully endured my peculiar brand of
engagement through more courses than any other educators. I thank them for their
patience and encouragement. Katerie Gladdys and Wes Kline have inspired and guided
me, showing the way to new territories and helping securely ground my bases. It has
been wonderful to share three years with Sheila Bishop and Patrick LeMieux, my good
friends and colleagues in the digital media art program at UF.
Car Camping, Mammoth Cave National Park
As destinations, the institutions of national park and art gallery both offer transcendent
experience in a public setting and derive authority or importance from notions of
beauty. These spaces hold opportunities for extraordinary engagement with objects
and images, and grant permission for absorption and communion with creation. Their
spectacular potential is the product of boundaries. Physical infrastructure including
roads, fences, walls, and signage condition the visitor toward a privileged range of
intellectual, recreational or spiritual behavior.
Representation of these moments of transcendence, to the extent they are
representable, has received strong attention throughout the history of art. Much of
the most compelling landscape photography of the past several decades has clearly
demonstrated the human interruption of natural places. My work focuses somewhere
in between, on the ways in which structures mediating movement and signifcation
are employed to produce the immediate.
Nature Trail, The Gallery at J. Wayne Reitz Union
Signs Posing, Petroglyph National Monument
Mixed Messages, Natchez Trace Parkway
Human Presence, Badlands National Park
Woman With Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park
Influx, Yellowstone National Park
Platform, Grand Canyon National Park
Train, Scottsbluff National Monument
Tour Boat, Crater Lake National Park
The performance of photography is not limited to the creation of artifacts for future
reference. It also functions as an instantaneous reality check or proofing of the body
relating to an image or landscape. For many visitors, imaging is the prime experiential
action, not simply documentation of some other experience. Though I may have seen
El Capitan or the Mona Lisa hundreds of times in books or movies, I am still compelled
to make my own photograph. In a way, tourist photography is always a portrait of the
body enacting somatic proximity to a specific space.
The image does not only come from the landscape or artwork and meet the eye, as
though the body alone contained the apparatus of perception. Cognitive, physical,
and emotional structures expect and project the image onto its materiality. A self
is present between projecting body and perceived object, the process of picturing
hinting at its expanse. The artifact becomes an extension of the body as well, and in
a way, the beholder of another's image shares in that process of self.
Functional Self-Portrait, Grand Canyon National Park
Truthing, Crater Lake National Park
Truthing, Crater Lake National Park
.. ...... .... .. .
The early 20th century saw Theodore Roosevelt and Marcel Duchamp make strikingly
similar moves in regard to power and the boundaries of transcendent space.
Duchamp's Fountain inaugurated the role of artist as executive designator a few
years after Roosevelt allocated hundreds of millions of acres to national parks and
monuments. Retrospectively, it is Roosevelt's boundaries that seem to define the
ultimate readymades. Delineations of wilderness founded on the absence of human
bodies and activity are profoundly challenged when their most obvious examples
become explicitly managed by human conceptual order.
Gift Shop, The Gallery at J. Wayne Reitz Union
Priceless, Biscayne National Park
Subtext, Natchez Trace Parkway
THE KNOT OF NATURE AND CULTURE
Nature is a set of all possibilities, including humankind, and a concept negotiated
by human thought and action. The idealized wilderness environment isolated from
cultural pressures is unavailable in practice, as the natural world requires significant
construction. Access to areas emblematic of natural beauty usually relies upon an
automobile and the construction of roads, manipulations of physical reality. This
reality is constructed in the process of perception and projection. The body implicated
in that process is composed of physical elements, forming a loop structure of subject
Parking, Scottsbluff National Monument
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Parking, Newberry National Volcanic Monument
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Parking, White Sands National Monument
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Signs relate distance, direction, and history. They provide contextual narrative
at waypoints and vistas, suggesting paths for navigation. The roads they describe
allow movement along specific trajectories. Do these structures facilitate experience
or discipline the visitor toward a limited set of possibilities? Yes. Defacement and
illiteracy constitute strategies of resistance.
Painted Wall and Titled, The Gallery at J. Wayne Reitz Union
Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park
Radiant, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Language Barrier Biscayne National Park
Magritte vs DHJ, Natchez Trace Parkway
Speak For Yourself, Natchez Trace Parkway
Magic, Natchez Trace Parkway
TOURISM IS SERIOUS WORK
As people and images travel, they produce a set of contradictions. Place becomes
non-place and vice-versa. The same amenities await at each freeway exit as part of
a journey that instills a sense of freedom. Perhaps we are convinced of the grandeur
of this nation by our spectacular encounters with the art and landscape it claims.
Perhaps we are disillusioned by their packaging. In either case, we can acknowledge
uncertainty and continue living.
Consequence Canyon, The Gallery at J. Wayne Reitz Union
Morning, Grand Tetons National Park
Futurity Arches National Park
Adams, Ansel, Andrea Gray Stillman, and William A. Turnage. Our National Parks.
Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. Print.
Battcock, Gregory. Idea Art; a Critical Anthology New York: Dutton, 1973. Print.
Baudrillard, Jean. America. London: Verso, 1988. Print.
Cronon, William. Uncommon Ground: toward Reinventing Nature. New York: W.W.
Norton &, 1995. Print.
Fox, William L. View Finder: Mark Klett, Photography, and the Reinvention of
Landscape. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2001. Print.
Fried, Michael, and Adolph Menzel. Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in
Nineteenth-century Berlin. New Haven: Yale UP, 2002. Print.
Harries, Karsten. "The Ethical Significance of Environmental Beauty." Architecture,
Ethics, and the Personhood of Place. Hanover: University of New England,
2007. 134-50. Print.
King, Dale S. Arizona's National Monuments. Santa Fe, N.M.: Printed by the Prescott
Courier, 1945. Print.
MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: a New Theory of the Leisure Class. New York:
Schocken, 1976. Print.
Misrach, Richard, and Reyner Banham. Desert Cantos. Albuquerque: University of
New Mexico, 1987. Print.
The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Dir. Ken Burns. By Dayton Duncan. Florentine
Films and WETA, 2009.
Pool, Peter E., Patricia Nelson Limerick, Dave Hickey, and Thomas W. Southall. The
Altered Landscape. Reno: Las Vegas, 1999. Print.
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