Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Running on Empty. Exhibition. Part Two

Hobby Lobby, KS
Hobby Lobby, KS

Cindy Sue, Pratt, KS
Pratt, KS

39th St, KC
39th St, KS

'Bird in the Hand'

Colby, KS
West Kansas

The second part of my exhibition of photographs from the 'Running on Empty' series will open in 7th August at Momentum Gallery, 2014 Main St, KCMO, 64108.

This exhibition will be part of the 'First Fridays' event at the Crossroads Arts District.

Friday Aug 7th. 6-9pm (until September)

Anyone in the Kansas City area is welcome to come along and see the show and say hi.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Mexico-Kansas City, Pt3 (Motel Notes, Feb08)

Taos, NM

Roswell, NM

Meade, KS



In north New Mexico/Texas we pass through tiny deserted looking towns, straight out of Westerns except they have a gas station and a Motel. Tumble weeds roll out into the road before us in true clich̩ style. These towns have names like Blackglove, Whitedeer, Panhandle, Gloom, Eagle Nest, Angel Fire and Wolf Creek. There are no ironies in American Westen movies, it seems. Suddenly there is the noxious smell of burning tyres which fills the car and Jenny and I both begin gagging for breath РJenny says this smell is of Skunk and I'm shocked as I always wondered what one of these creatures smelt like. It penetrates everything too, inescapable Рyou can even taste it Рhideous.

In silence we drive through the town Greenberg, Oklahoma (I think) recent hit by a tornado – the devastation is frightening, trees either stand petrified stripped of their leaves and bark or are ripped up from the roots completely. It is the same with peoples homes – some have their roofs torn off, others simply not there at all and others are half demolished like they have been ripped in half by giant earth moving machines, savage-like. Household debris is scattered everywhere and bright blue Tarpaulins covering household contents, furniture and such, flap wildly in the wind. There is not a soul in sight and the massive sky looks like a Turner painting. We pass by in the car transfixed whispering the word 'Jesus!' over and over again at this violent act of God in disbelief. As we leave the town we see a billboard that reads: 'Follow Jesus or regret it forever in Hell' (honestly). Another tells us: 'The price of Abortion is a human life' with a cute picture of a big fat American baby next to it. Another oddity we see, stands in someone's garden, but facing out at us on the road, is a large crucifix with a well painted, wooden and realistic looking Foetus nailed to its centre with the words 'American Holocaust' painted across it dramatically… Scary stuff.

On the Oklahoma/Kansas Stateline we pass enormous trucks parked at the roadside which dwarf the drivers standing next to them, and the trucks, in turn, are dwarfed by colossal grain silos which stand twenty stories + into the air, like concrete space rockets, strange and monolithic and periodically spaced in the vast flat landscape: religious science fiction alien monuments, slate grey - stained and bleached - crumbling and symmetrical. These silos too are dwarfed themselves by the sky which fills everything out in all directions to the one inch above the ground horizons in the unimaginable distance. The very American word 'Awesome' immediately springs to mind (again). A word I have seldom ever used before, but the only word I can think of now whilst driving through this country.

At Meade, we make our last stop and stay the night in another Motel, which are very cheap, clean, warm and have everything you might need - always including a good bed, a TV (with a hundred channels of total junk) very hot showers and fluffy towels. All for 40$ for both of us. We are both exhausted and have driven for 11hours today and have a hell of a drive starting early tomorrow morning to get back to Kansas City for a 3pm meeting. I can't sleep though. Apart from having restless legs, every time I close my eyes I see the road ahead of me – like seeing fried eggs before your eyes when you have been looking at the sun – the road is burned into my mind. We arrived here at 10ish and its now 2:30 in the morning, so I get up and go outside for a cigarette.

The road is still busy. No cars now only Trucks, thundering passed in both directions all customised and lit up light Christmas trees. It's relentless. I think about the American Brat and how these Trucks are racing from one end of the country to the other supplying them, driving through the night – an endless stream of Logos. For some reason it suddenly all makes sense, but I'm really tired…

I have been travelling at 80mph for the last 5hours and finally my luck runs out when I see flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. State Trooper. I begin to panic as a thousand violent movies and TV program scenarios race through my head. This exact situation being the prelude to a thousand horrific celluloid nightmares from 'Psycho' to 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' to even a movie I only saw last week 'No Country for Old Men'. I wake up Jenny, put on my indicator and pull over to the road side and wait for the worst. We are in Kansas so the policeman is wearing a cowboy hat. He waits too long in his car before casually opening the door and getting out. His uniform is immaculate and he saunters over with an air of calm authority and power only felt by those who carry both a police badge and a gun. I wind my window down and smile nervously with frightened eyes thinking 'this is it!' We are now going to either get our brains blown out, after first being hideously abused and tortured, or we will be arrested and taken to a place somewhere off the main road to be skinned alive and cut into pieces by retards or rednecks in masks made from human skin wielding chainsaws… This though strangely doesn't happen and for some reason I feel a wave of disappointment too. Instead the cop is friendly and polite and almost apologetic sounding. And when I hand him my English licence he brightens even more and wants to chat. He tells me I was speeding with a perfect smile and doesn't even give me a ticket - just a warning. He goes on to say that I am the third European he has pulled over this morning and I get the impression this experience has made him feel worldly and international – something to tell the wife later (I don't think there is much action around these parts). Jenny is quietly stunned as I finally drive away waving to him in the wing mirror..

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Roswell-Taos, NM, Pt2 ( Road Notes: Feb 08)

Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe, NM

Northern New Mexico - Vast landscapes, still wild and untamed - The Whiteman does NOT hold the lease on this country and the single roads just pass through. I imagine the landscape filled with Bison and making this trip 100+ years ago on horse – roadless and mappless not knowing what might lay ahead. The mind boggles how the pioneers made it at all – Apart from the road, the landscape remains natures own to this day and it is still Indian country, though only now in reservation form. As we pass the small and strange Adobe Native American homes I feel sad, but tell myself this is not my guilt (or is it?) so enjoy the passing poverty like a true tourist – Jen and I cannot help talking about it though – the what ifs, what now's and what has always been...

Somewhere between Roswell and Santa Fe we pull over at a Gas station for supplies, but this gas station has no gas. We go in and I am reminded of Colston Cross in Chard. This is its U.S. Wild West equivalent. Behind the counter overlooking the shops sparse supplies is a scary looking woman with both front teeth missing, who turns out to be very friendly, though she talks with a hiss. As we face the counter, behind us sits a huge cowboy type old timer, drinking coffee and eating M&Ms like there was nothing wrong with anything in the world. Big red face, ten gallon hat, belt buckle, jeans, cowboy boots and covered with dust. I asked to use the rest room and Jenny starts asking questions. The toothless woman is friendly and chatty and tells her this place used to be a busy agricultural town once upon a time, but folks moved away when the 'dustbowl' hit years back. 'No youngsters here no more' the old cowboy adds as I return from the bathroom. No-one remarks on my accent, (which they normally do in these small places) because they have already seen everything and everybody just pass through…

From Santa Fe to the small town of Taos is approximately one centimetre on our map, but it turns out to be 100miles away. Time, scale and distance out here mean nothing and I am continuously staggered by the vast spaces between what are only pockets of civilisation. The sun is slowly setting and we have to drive horrendous winding mountain roads, along the 'Rio Grande' river on 'Kit Carson Pass', climbing eventually 8000ft to a plateau where Taos sits flanked by snow covered mountain peeks. It is cold now and there is already snow at the roadside and ice too. It is Jenny's turn to drive and she is feeling understandably nervous.

The mixture between the winding road and Jenny's caution is hypnotising and I try to distract myself by watching only the roadside. The road to Taos is littered with mobile homes – 'trailers' in often shocking condition. I wasn't expecting to see such poverty in the United States of America, but here it is. Some trailers, once shinny steel, now stand sunk in mud and riddled with rust, all sideways and wonky at the roadside in long random scattered lines. Others, made of fibreglass and wood have the patched together quality of miss-matched and contrasting paint jobs – corrugated iron sheets leans at angles propped up outside in a state of temporary permanence - built for a day, but twenty years ago. All the trailers are occupied too and dim flickering blue Television lights illuminate dirty lace curtains hanging in misted up windows. I wonder about the lives within. How does one live up and out here, I cannot imagine. Every trailer appears to have at least one working car parked outside and at least two wreaks – wheeless and doorless husks, either propped up on bricks or collapsed with bonnets open like sick metal mouths puking engine parts. These old car parts litter the roadside and redundant tyres are stacked up everywhere. Some lots have children's swings and climbing frames outside slowly sinking in the red mountainside clay and others have the American flag flying from fence post flag poles, but it is limp, rain-sodden and soiled.

I read in the guidebook that Taos is famous for being one of the locations that the movie Easy Rider was filmed, back in 1969. Which scenes though, I am unsure. Back then Taos was a great 'hippy'and artist destination (D.H. Laurence moved here) and the surrounding area had 30 communes (more than any other place in the U.S.). Now, Taos still has the spirit of those times (kind of) and has a flourishing, but highly competitive, artists community. Every other shop is a gallery of some sort and still run by the original 'hippy' settlers; now middle aged but still dressed in tie dye and wearing (now grey) ponytails. Funny though as every one we chatted to seemed to talk only about money and property – either dreaming out loud about it, or gossiping about whose rich and whose not and how big their houses were and what they were worth and I found all of them, actually, were on the hustle for Jen and I's cash – eg: I bought a piece of coconut chocolate in one store and I was charged $11, which I officially class a daylight robbery (but with a 'hey man' and a smile).. Beautiful place though – the location absolutely breath (& cash) taking..

Outside Taos is a Native American village, which was highly recommended to visit, but we didn't. I felt weird about it and felt it like something from 'Brave New World'. White Americans could pay 10$ to enter, walk around and photograph the Native Americans going about their daily business.. Not my cup of tea really.. Imagine it the other way around? A crowd of American tourists watching and photographing me..

Santa Fe, NM

Monday, July 13, 2009

Road to Roswell. Motel Notes (Feb 08)

Roswell Motel, NM

Road to Roswell, NM

Roswell, NM

Rowell Motel, NM

Road to Roswell is long empty and straight. Not another car, house or sign of human life for miles around - though out there in the desert is area 51 creepy as it is remote. New Mexico is hot and we go from down-filled Parker Coats to t-shirts almost between gas stations. The nights are cold though and the crystal clear skies are busy with mysterious 'air traffic'. Blinking lights that snake and ark across the heavens, crossing quickly the space between the stars like some massive game of celestial dot-to-dot. Last night we drove out to alien crash site where Jenny and I stared out into the vast silence, holding hands and shivering under jackets lying on the bonnet of our car..

Roswell is the parallel universe 'Tidworth Hampshire' of my childhood dreams, full of secrets and glow in the dark mystery. All conspiracy and silence - possibility and potential. Amazing drive here. Kansas with massive open fenceless prairie land. Oklahoma with its landscape littered with nodding donkey oil or water pumps, scrub and scattered evergreens. Texas North has vast, open, flatter than Kansas plains and impossible farmland. Low black storm clouds one inch from horizon where you could imagine a tornado touching down at any time. Incredible views from the road. New Mexico is poor and the land appears useless. Virtual desert. Every other roadside ranch and gas station is deserted – husks and crumbling sun bleached multi-coloured shells only. Tumble weeds roll out in front of the car. Dead possums and other nameless creatures at the roadside - Armadillo? Endless Southern Pacific freight trains thread through the barren lunar landscape and into the vast star-filled night, its sad mournful call filling me with a deep and aching loneliness. Massive chrome-covered thundering trucks which gather in special parking lots at night in some sinister CB radio conspiracy, strange and creepy. Heard that the dead road of route 66 runs parallel someplace around here too and it flickers like a phantom in my thoughts. I could drive for a year and never stop. We will be home again on Thursday. After visiting Santa Fa later today. First we're off to see the UFO museum. Couple scream at each other in the next room and keep me awake while I write these notes. A broadcast from the air con vents - 'Bitch' this and 'motherfucker' that over turned up blare of babble on the TV box. She is pregnant and doesn't want him getting high. Thought she was gonna shoot him. I didn't sleep well.