My 7 Favorite Roadside Art Installations

“The key to understanding any people is in its art: its writing, painting, sculpture.” 
― 
Louis L'Amour

Whoa sign outside of Big Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada (pop. 68)

Whoa sign outside of Big Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada (pop. 68)

When I’m on the road, I always make time to stop at interesting roadside attractions. Sometimes I get lucky and find something right off the highway, while other times I’ve had to venture into backroads and follow handwritten directions from a local to find my destination.

Either way, it’s always exciting to to find art in the outdoors. Wide open spaces are inspiring, and provide a backdrop unlike any art museum.

Here are my 7 favorites so far:

Galleta Meadows Estate — Borrego Springs, CA

Galleta Meadows Estate is in Borrego Springs, California — a town completely surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is also the home to over 130 metal sculptures along the sides of the roads. A philanthropist, Dennis Avery, owned the land, and commissioned artist Ricardo Breceda to create the historic, prehistoric, and fanciful creatures all over his property.

They are massive, and awe inspiring. You can find most of them off of Borrego Springs Rd, through a seemingly never-ending network of dirt roads. There are maps available in town, but I’d argue finding them is part of the fun.

On the way: visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park! Spend some time in Borrego Springs, stop at Kesling’s Kitchen for lunch, or take a picnic to Christmas Circle.

More information can be found here.

Seven Magic Mountains — outside Las Vegas, NV

7 magic mountains

No, it’s not a theme park, but the crowds might rival one. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of Seven Magic Mountains scrolling through Instagram. But you might not realize that the installation is right outside of Las Vegas — off I-15. Meant to be a two-year installation created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, the 30 foot neon rocks are still standing almost three years on.

And still bringing in crowds. I’d try to visit at sunrise or sunset, and on a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds.

On the road: Las Vegas :) It’s also a good spot to stop and take a break between a trip from Zion National Park to Joshua Tree.

More info can be found here.

Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum — Joshua Tree, CA

During one of my first trips to Joshua Tree, I stayed in an eclectic artist owned camper in the desert. My plan was to spend my days in the park, but my airbnb host highly recommended that I take a detour — to the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Musuem. I am SO glad I did. The Desert Art Museum is made up of several acres of land displaying Purifoy’s assemblage sculptures. He created them all on site from 1989-2004 using all sorts of materials.

There are brochures at the entrance with names and story of each piece that I definitely encourage you to read when visiting. Then meander through the thoughtful and political sculptures, likely without a crowd. This art is meant to be walked in/on — Purifoy was interested in the role the environment would play in the pieces. It is truly unlike anywhere I have ever been.

On the road: Joshua Tree National Park is just a stones throw away.

Read more here.

Cadillac Ranch — Amarillo, TX

cadillac+ranch

This is arguably the most famous roadside art installation of all — Cadillac Ranch. Sitting, er, buried on a cow pasture with an unlocked gate (actually it’s second location), Cadillac Ranch is an ode to the changing Cadillac tailfin. It was created by the San Francisco art group Ant Farm, with funding from local millionaire patron Stanley Marsh 3.

Cadillac Ranch was crowded and strewn with empty spray paint bottles on my visit — but I was still glad I stopped. The interactive nature of the art is inspiring — reading and admiring what others have created on the cars.

On the road: Cadillac Ranch can be found right off I-40 outside of Amarillo between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque. It’s also a stop along the historic Route 66.

Read more here.

Prada Marfa — Valentine, TX

Another famous Instagram location — Prada Marfa. Prada Marfa is not actually in Marfa, but a mile or so outside of Valentine, Texas (pop. 134) and 26 from Marfa. This is one of the rare destinations that is actually more remote than it seems in photos. It is truly in the middle of nowhere, which is the point. Conceived by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, and supported by Miuccia Prada (she hand selected handbags and shoes to be displayed inside), the store is obviously non-functional, and meant to be permanent without repairs.

You find it directly on Highway 90, south of I-10 towards Marfa.

On the road: Marfa is an amazing city full of art and oddities. Visit Food Shark, the Chinati Foundation, and attempt to get a glimpse of the Marfa lights. It’s also a great stopping point on the way to or from Big Bend National Park.

More info here.

World’s Smallest Target — Marathon, TX

There isn’t much known about this one, as no one has ever claimed responsibility. Located 40ish miles east of Marfa on US 90, it is surrounded by… basically nothing. I visited after Prada Marfa and if nothing else it made me chuckle. My kind of tiny store indeed.

On the road: it is outside of Marfa, and about 2 hours North of Big Bend National Park.

Read more here.

Carhenge — Alliance, NE

I spend a lot of time driving through Nebraska, and like their new slogan explains — “it’s not for everyone”. I saw the signs for Carhenge multiple times, but it’s location 2 hours north of the Interstate wasn’t exactly appealing. I took the scenic route to visit Scottsbluff National Monument on a recent trip, so it was the perfect time to stop.

Carhenge is just what it sounds like — a Stonehenge replica made with cars. Built by Jim Reinders in 1987, the site has a visitors center, parking, and other artwork on site. While I don’t know if I would go two hours out of my way to visit, it is an interesting and eclectic stop if you’re in the area.

On the road: Scottsbluff National Monument is about an hour west

Read more here.

This list doesn’t even scratch the surface on roadside art installations, but I hope it inspired you to add one or two to your list.

What outdoor art installations do you recommend? Let me know in the comments :)

TBT

“Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” 
― 
Mother Teresa

jasper alberta

Sometimes I get comments and messages from people who give me a hard time about why I’m posting places “when I’m not even there”. This really bothers me. One — if you don’t like it don’t follow me (and definitely don’t take the time to write a comment/message) and two — who says something is important or interesting or worthy of being shared just because it’s happening now? Where did this come from? I actually think it’s so odd when people post when they are actually doing something. That must be really annoying to everyone else. Being stuck behind a phone. Trying to write a caption and edit a photo instead of enjoying the moment that is worthy of being shared.

I wrote a little about it on Instagram today:

“This photo wasn’t taken this morning. It’s a #tbt of course. Like many of my photos, I don’t aim to post in the moment. For safety reasons first, but more to stay present. In the moment. I take my phone out to capture a scene and then I put it away. I don’t want to spend any time editing or coming up with some caption. ⁣

Photos, to me, have a life beyond the moment. Isn’t that like.. the point of a photo? It’s an artistic expression. So why would I ever feel that it couldn’t be shared again? Later? That a picture isn’t relevant if it wasn’t happening in this moment? ⁣

I think about the life of art sometimes. The picture on the wall. Where it’s been. What it’s seen. The people who have interacted with this same piece over the years. The meaning they ascribed to it. ⁣

Because if there’s one thing that frustrates me about social media, it’s the disposability of it. The fleeting nature. That a moment in time is only interesting for a moment. Before something better comes along. Memories don’t work that way. Art doesn’t work that way. Neither are disposable. They have a life beyond the moment. A life I want to continue to remember. To reminisce. To make meaning from. I hope that’s alright :) “

Because a photo isn’t a beautiful photo because it was taken right at that moment. A story isn’t moving because it just happened. We live in an instant gratification culture, where we want to know it all now. Take the time to step away from it. Wait a little. Experience things first. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday Five - 12.9.16

“Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”


― Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This week has been a strange one. It's my last solid week as a 30 year old, it's colder in Denver than it has been in 2 years, it's the week before finals, and it snowed! It's been the sort of week that somehow feels long and short at the same time. A week where I have been happy and sad and everywhere in between for reasons I mostly can't even remember now. So, just like this scattered week, here is a scattered list of five things that have gotten my attention:

Emotional Relationships to Numbers (aka thank goodness I'm a prime number again)

In three short days I will be turning 31! Like many others, I am excited to leave this year behind. - not just 2016 but 30. It wasn't all bad - in fact, it was mostly really great - but the number 31 itself is exciting for me.

Why is 31 so interesting? Well, I am a math teacher, so I'm sure it's not surprising that I love reading about numbers. But my fascination is not just with numbers in a mathematical sense, but the emotions and relationships we have with numbers. I - like a lot of people - have always been obsessed with the number 3. I count out everything into groups of three. Three (and any multiple of three) feels calming to me. I'm also really interested in prime numbers - the lack of pattern and divisibility make them unique. I also like that 3 and 1 are both odd, that 3 divided by 1 is 3 and that the difference between the two are equal to the digits of the number. So.. maybe the fascination is mostly sort of mathematical (and strange). 

While I am excited about 31, my favorite numbers are actually 11 and 3. There are so many interesting studies about favorite numbers and number relationships. Even numbers are seen to be good or calm, while odd numbers are seen as bad. Evens are said to be feminine while odds are masculine and more difficult to process. Despite the seemingly negative connotations, odd numbers are far more likely to be someone's "favorite number"

The number 7 is - by far - the most common favorite number in the world. It is arithmetically unique and seems mystical in some way. It's the only one digit number that isn't a part of another single digit fact family (nothing under 10 can be divided into/multiplied etc to make 7). Three feels that way for me. It's odd, it's prime, it's curvy, and it's everywhere in art. Eleven is odd, prime, but still has even characteristics (add up to an even, first two digits of the Fibonacci sequence, etc..) 

If you want to learn more about favorite numbers and the emotional relationship we have with them, listen to this episode of Radiolab (embedded below) or read this, this, or this

Petrified Forest National Park

Today marks the 54th anniversary of the establishment of Petrified Forest National Park. I visited the vast park in the middle of nowhere nearly two years ago now. 

Interesting part of the parks history: at one point the park said it was losing 1 ton of petrified wood a month to visitors illegally smuggling it out. The park took several punitive steps to curb the theft but found that it actually seemed to increase with the attention placed on it.

I recommend a great, short, Criminal podcast (embedded below the pictures) about the wood theft. It talks about the bad luck people claim to experience after they've stolen wood from the park and the subsequent letters they send back (with the wood) in the hopes of their luck being reversed. The so called "conscience letters" used to be on display at the park - now they are trying to step away from that narrative - but the letters are still available on the website "Bad Luck, Hot Rocks" and book of the same name. Here are a couple of my favorites: 

Read more here and here

Creators vs. Consumers

Last weekend I spent Saturday night getting (much needed) drinks with a friend and catching each other up on our creative projects. Through the night - as we got a few more drinks and a little more honest in our venting - the refrain "at least I'm doing something" came up more than once. It can be frustrating and lonely to try to make something new. To put yourself out there for judgment. But at least I'm creating. At least I'm trying. At least I'm sharing. At least I am doing something. 

While "sharing" online seems to be constant, most people are not actively creating content. Consider the 1% rule of the internet - the theory that 1% of users actively create new content and that 99% generally "lurk" on most platforms . The 1-9-90 Principal is similar - that 1% of users are creators, 9% are synthesizers (Blooms Taxonomy woo) and 90% are just consumers. The Pareto Principle is also very similar and theorizes that 80% of content is created by 20% of users. 

Any way you look at it it's a very small percentage of people creating and the overwhelming majority of people are simply consuming. Here are some interesting stats I found:

0.2% of Wikipedia users ever contribute new content

44% of twitter users have never even tweeted (lurkers) and only 3% tweet daily

< 0.1% of YouTube users are creating any content

1-3% of Reddit users are contributing

< 1% of people who buy books on Amazon leave reviews

I don't know about you but I'd rather be a creator. I may not always create the best content but at least I am creating it. Creating gives you power - the only cultural influencers are creators. Consumers are passive. They believe they have limited options and work within a framework that's already been decided. Boring. And the more you create the better it gets! 

Read more about creating vs consuming here, here, and here

 

Psychology of Holiday Decor

One of the best parts of the holidays for me is the opportunity to decorate! I especially love Christmas decorating and despite living in a small one bedroom apartment, I have managed to fit in 7 Christmas trees of various sizes, shapes, and colors. 

 Generally I am the only person to ever see the 7 trees but I know that decorating is important to me and my mood. I wanted to know more so I did some digging into the psychology of decor. I ran into several articles talking about "neuroarchitecture"- the study of the link between neuroscience and the physical built environment. (i.e. how light affects mood)

Some interesting takeaways:

Clutter can sometimes be a good thing! It's been found that some clutter can be beneficial in a home and that being surrounded by evidence of who you are has a grounding effect. 

"Soft Geometry"or the idea that curved surfaces activate more emotional centers of our brain and cause us to relax. Conversely, a Harvard Medical School study found that sharp objects produced a negative feeling and conveyed a sense of danger. 

Plants reduce stress! Even just a picture of a landscape can improve concentration and lower stress. 

Rearranging can lift your moods! Just like the hedonic adaptation I talked about here, your physical environment can benefit from novelty. When you make changes in your environment, dopamine kicks in and motivates us. Easy way to rearrange: Holiday decor :) 

Read more here, here, and here

Math Stained Glass - Math/Art Connection

This week my classes all finished one of my favorite activities of the year - Math Stained Glass! They have to graph linear equations into a stained glass pattern then color them in and we put them on the window - instant fancy. 

The math art connection is so important to me. Every year kids complain that this "isn't art class" and I have to tell them it is. Math is art. They are inextricably linked. Here is some proof/things to ponder:

Maryam Mirzakhani, a mathematician who became the first woman and Iranian to win the Fields Medal (most prestigious award in math) works almost entirely visually. She sketches out everything on large paper and says that "The process of drawing something helps you somehow to stay connected”. This is math in the real world. It is open, creative, and outside the box. It is the direct antithesis of school math - math that is generally closed and absurd. School math poses very few interesting questions, and assumes a general algorithm can be used to find a tidy answer. That is not math.

Math is more than numbers and computation. The most powerful learning occurs when we use different areas of the brain. There are different pathways for drawing/visualizing and numbers and symbols and achievement has shown to improve when subjects are taught in a way that uses both of these pathways. Brain crossings are the definition of creativity - making connections between seemingly unrelated things and finding hidden patterns. The world is a pattern and math is all - guess what - patterns! 

Another creativity block in (boring) school math is the idea of "learning styles" that has permeated education and other fields despite there being no scientific evidence or brain research that supports the idea. Instead, many of the same styles and modalities apply to most people and EVERYONE is a visual learner! 

Visualization and visual representations are key in math. Students who use more visualizing in their curriculum achieve higher. Not just in math class, but students who are in more arts courses have been shown to score higher on SAT's and other standardized measures, as well as have more confidence, better motor skills, better decision making and problem solving skills. 

I could go on. And on. But if this is interesting to you read more here, here or here. (Or just bring it up with me over a glass of wine. But be prepared.)

 

Happy Friday :) 

 

inspiration: georgia o'keeffe

"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for." - Georgia O'Keeffe
georgia o keeffe

As an artist (and a person) I'm always looking for inspiration. To say that Georgia O'Keeffe is an inspiration would be an understatement. There is a reason she is the most famous female artist and one of the most photographed and written about women of the last century. 

So rather than add to the vast writing about O'Keeffe I'll try to (briefly) explain why I personally am drawn to not just her work, but her life and her spirit. 

"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.” - Georgia O'Keeffe

I've only been seriously painting for the last year or so and all that time I have fought a bit of an inner battle over sharing my work. While my constant social media stream may say otherwise, it is difficult to put your work out for judgement. Making anything is an act of courage and O'Keeffe is a great example of living courageously.

O'Keeffe made art her way when female artists weren't as respected as they are now. She was the first woman to have a retrospective show at the MoMA and as her obituary in the New York Times noted, she "raised the awareness of the American public to the fact that a woman could be the equal of any man in her chosen field…she left her mark on the history of American art and made it possible for other women to explore a new gamut of symbolic and ambiguous imagery.”

ghost ranch
ghost ranch

Chimney Rock trail at ghost ranch, Abiquiu NM

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not. ” - Georgia O'Keeffe

I am inspired by O'Keeffe to take time to look at things deeply. To take all the beauty that surrounds me and create without excuses or reservations. 

The New York Times noted that she "would wrap herself in a blanket and wait, shivering, in the cold dark for a sunrise to paint; would climb a ladder to see the stars from a roof, and hop around in her stockings on an enormous canvas to add final touches before all the paint dried."  

That is how I want to live my life. 

Photos: Left  Right

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” - Georgia O'Keeffe

I think about this quote a lot - especially on planes (ha) But seriously, I've made a great effort the last few years to acknowledge fear and keep going. I would never have some of the amazing experiences that I have if I allowed fear to rule. And because of that, one of the greatest compliments I can receive is that I am brave. 

Georgia was brave - brave in her art and her life. She lived the way she wanted to and did the things she wanted to. She made the backseat of her Ford Model A into a painting studio, she took a rafting trip down the Colorado river at 74 and painted until she became blind - (but then she started sculpting!) She was always evolving and paving the way for so many women and artists to come after her. 

There are so many things that are inspirational to me about O'Keeffe I could ramble on and on but her work and photographs are (of course) the main inspiration. So here are a few of my favorites, some paintings I'm working on, pictures from a few visits to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch (one of her homes) in Abiquiu, and a short video if you're as much of a fan girl as I am! Enjoy and be inspired :)

Photos: Left   Right

ghost ranch

Photos: Left Right

Photos: Left Right

ghost ranch

She once famously said of Cerro Pedernal (pictured):

"It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it." - Georgia O'Keeffe

If you've made it this far check out this video from the O'Keeffe museum (that I have watched in its entirety all three times I've visited) :) 

My First Portrait - Kurt Vonnegut

"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something" - KV

People often ask me how long I've been painting - or what my training is. They are surprised to find that I just started painting portraits about 14 months ago on a whim. I've been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut for as long as I can remember and was inspired by the above quote to do more than just create, but to try something new. So I found the photo below and got to work. 

My process is fairly simple. I start with a regular canvas usually from Michaels or somewhere similar and pencil sketch a photo that I like. I start with the face itself, and fill in colors/shapes without regard for any details. It's important to use several shades of a color rather than immediately try to lighten or darken with white and black. I add in those last.

I usually stop there for one sitting. I paint fairly fast and the first layer could be only 30 minutes or so of work. The next day or two (or hour) I start in on more details, but with the same basic idea of colors/shapes/variation in tones. The only real difference is I'm using a smaller brush and - duh - smaller brushstrokes result. The process of building the facial expressions is my favorite part. 

The last part of my process is generally more details and sometimes an unexpected element (like the red below) depending on what I'm working on. The whole process could take as little as a few hours or as long as a few months! I tend to come back to paintings a lot and I've used the same basic process since I started. 

This was my first portrait ever and the first printed canvas I sold through the store after getting the site up! You can too - here :) 

Stay tuned for a more in depth look at paints, brushes, mediums etc! (and maybe another gif!!) 

<3