I just got back to New Orleans after traveling to Los Angeles and back on the Amtrak. I grew up in a commuter town, so trains have always felt like a second home; not to mention less stressful, less security to go through then an airport/airplane. Traveling is a relational space, and one that would be very hard to turn into an arts piece – well – at least in the way I mean to. All the way to LA people sitting next to me in coach, in the dining car, in the observation deck just opened up and told me the most intimate details of their lives. It’s the temporariness of this space I think, and the unlikelihood of seeing them ever again. At one point a man I had been talking to for nearly and hour turned to me and said, “I mean, why is it a problem to be sad sometimes,” and I fed him my line about how deep emotions are something to be proud of; you know: proof that your not a sociopath. We both laughed and ducked sideways in that kind of ah-ha moment wiping a bit of tears out of the corner of our eyes.

My first lunch involved a nurse who had suggested the cause of early onset arthritis was (after testing was proven) an excess of fertilizer in the New Orleans soil. Children had apparently been absorbing it through their skin, while it had run it’s way out of the country’s bread basket. Another man, unquestionably ordinary in appearance, boasted that he had started beekeeping as a hobby. Another nurse who worked in hospice riddled me with stories of the earthquakes she had survived and the things people said when they were leaving this world. I wish I could occupy a train car with my camera document these conversations like I did in my storefront window tea project in Olneyville. No doubt the presence of cameras and other recording implements would change the interactions some, but I would love to relate the intense feeling of community that happens when you are between places: the ways people almost always find a common ground when they are squished together in a tiny transporter.

I spent one whole day, each way, staring at the desert. I made four part color separations for silk screen in my head. I dulled down all my other senses to have a very visual dialog. It was amazing.

I also tried to take pictures of the border, especially around El Paso/Juarez, but taking pictures from the observation deck was clouded by the window, and the border is a little too far away from the station where we stopped. It was the closest to the border that I had ever been, and it is truly visually dramatic. I remembered a talk I went to at RISD’s Better World By Design by Teddy Cruz in Southern California who documents the housing developments in San Diego and Tijuana. On both sides of the border itself you see a proliferation of borders: gated communities and mansions with seven foot fences on one side, and houses largely made out of American waste products with creative means to lock off yards. It is fascinating to me because the same fencing and handmade security found just south of the US/Mexico border is something you see in both Los Angeles and New Orleans. I have a deep draw to work somehow with the El Paso/Juarez border through art and photography and if I can find a way to manifest that I will, but I am also reminded heavily of the Juarez women (400 documented homicides, 5000 estimated since 1993) which might prevent me from doing such work. The story of these women (most of who are 12-22 aged maquiladora workers) are certainly worthy many relational art pieces, pulling on the heart strings of the sociopaths tendency which creates such devastation. I will think about this some more. You too, ok. Get on it.

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