"We're not out of the woods!" screamed the local paper's headlines. We're in the middle of drought here in Northern California and the paper seems to be relishing that fact. Never mind that the rain is falling, it isn't enough. And if it were enough, then there'd be floods. LANDSLIDES. Then just wait until fire season. All that rain will mean bad news for firefighters. Lots of growth to burn. Or, if there isn't enough rain that will be bad news also. Lots of dead growth to burn. Any way you look at it we're screwed. All the reporters love to say, no matter the nature of perceived relief, "It's a drop in the bucket." And if they don't say it they unfailingly find someone to quote who will.
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Up in the Marin Headlands, among the ruins of the bunkers and coastal fortifications, one can spot evidence of a subterranean world. There are mounds of dirt, domes of concrete, rusted hatches, and air vents to the underworld. It all seems so hellish, even in its dormancy and ruin. The world is sealed off now, the portals welded shut. One can only imagine the world down there—what it must have been like when solders performed their duty in the dank, concrete world, waiting for an invasion that might or might not ever come.
Most of the work I do in photomontage is a mystery. I find photos of enigmatic and interesting characters, live with them, file them, bring them out again, digitize them and restore them. Then one day, one (or more) of the characters speak to me. Then I move them into a new world of my imagination. Years ago they'd probably have medicated me (or maybe worse). Today I'm just an eccentric artist.
I get glued to this computer sometimes. My eyes stuck wide-open, frozen in a blinkless state, I feel like Alex from A Clockwork Orange in the scene where the reprogram him. Only, in my case, I don't have some creepy attendant putting tear solution in my eyes. "Blink!" I tell myself—always too late to do any good. By the time I actually do remember to blink, my eyelids feel like sandpaper.
I’ve been busy photographing the batteries and bunkers in the Marin Headlands, just north of San Francisco. Given that San Francisco Bay has been deemed strategic ever since the Spanish moved in, there are layers of military installations around the Golden Gate in order to protect it. The artillery bunkers were mostly established before World War II. By the end of that war it was deemed that the artillery would be useless in the event of an attack by missiles or advanced aircraft. So, the old bunkers were left to ruin.
In the bunker country of the Marin Headlands one comes across these concrete and metal protrusions. Not being an expert on bunkers and fortifications, I don’t know the proper name for these things. I do know that they frighten me. They suggest some kind of subterranean activity. A portal leading straight to hell
So much has changed and, too, so little. Fear and terror can rise from the ashes in a heartbeat. The fear of the Civil War, World War I and World War II live on in coastal hills of Northern California. Today’s War on Terror invented nothing. It simply stirred the darkness, illuminated the shadow, raised the dead. Close by where the big guns of WW II were bolted down to shoot at the Japanese, a Nike missile site was later built to aim itself at the Soviet Union. The Cold War—nothing cold about it. Now the missile silo is an historical site. A curiosity. Seems odd that nuclear weapons were nestled into our neighborhood.
This country does not value the artist. Once I was an business executive. Then I became an artist. The difference in how our society has responded to me is palpable. A few weeks ago, someone labeled me as “semi-retired.” Making art, to that person, was akin to playing golf. In his mind's eye I was amusing myself, keeping myself busy.
There is something about the slow decay of the material world that transforms most things into the sublime. The first scratch in a new piece of furniture is joined by a second. Over time it becomes patina. Refinish the antique and it loses its value.