Thursday, August 12, 2010
air bellows outdoor art museum
Drove up to the Air Bellows Outdoor Art Museum to see what has been added since my last look at it. Some beautiful additions, like the one above. They're beginning to pile up now, words and letters on top of others until all the messages and names are blended into an abstraction where the words and names become irrelevant, just colors. I'm finding it curious that this particular canvas is characterized more by words and names, lines. It seemed in the past there was quite a bit of image making. It's notable less images this time around. It's primarily words and names, sometimes numbers. Seldom an effort to make an image. This one above seems to me an image made the same as a letter of an alphabet. It seems like a social change. Makes me wonder if texting, computers, other social influences were causing the young to see words in their mind's eye instead of pictures. The nature of how the paint is used to express visually, has changed. Almost no attempt to express visual art, but word art. Kind of like what the art world called "concrete poetry" in the late 60s, early 70s.
I'm happy the place chosen by common agreement among the ones who like to do such things is so close to home. The nearest best place. A lot of kids. When they have a place to express their existence in their natural teenage way--no need to try to fight it; it's the same generation after generation, just different expression. With a place of their choice to have that kind of not-supposed-to fun, it gets focused in one place instead of all over town. In one place, it makes a beautiful space. I doubt if many drive through there without griping about they hadn't oughta, like anyone has control. No one has control. It just is what it is. It is beautiful to my way of seeing, esp the spontaneity of it, the chance juxtaposition of colors, the layers that have a degree of meaning when they're on the surface, but after a year or two, more gets painted over them and they become indecipherable background lines of color. The deeper they go, the further away their meaning fades. It's not quite as active the last 2 years as it was before. But it has its own character. Each one is beautifully itself.
Several years ago I made a contribution in a time when it was really active, the walls covered with colors, bold, bright colors, changing every week. Then I watched it get buried under several more layers of lines and colors until it was out of sight but for occasional bits of color peeping through. Then a new canvas. I think that was the time a neighbor caught a kid in there spraying. He knew the kid. Told the kid's mother. Parkway got involved. His punishment was to paint the walls and ceiling with a roller, paint over all the art. I think it was painted brown. It doesn't matter what the base color. It was getting ready for a new canvas. It doesn't hurt to periodically get wiped out of existence and start a new canvas fresh. Like the Tibetan sand paintings. The making of it is the purpose. When it is over it is brushed away by the Dalai Lama. The painting on the walls is impermanence itself. It's as impermanent as all the text messaging being done in one given hour. I'm seeing the art in the tunnel an art expression of texting, brief messages, short words and names. I can't number the pictures I've taken in there since it started. I think it was some time in the 80s when the first words appeared. It wasn't long before the whole inside was covered.
For a long time they kept the paint off the rocks, then some years ago somebody painted on the rocks at either entrance, then they were covered right away, the signs painted black. Excess. The Parkway cleaned off the rocks, replaced the signs and painted the walls. This round that's on now is what came next. I have a feeling there may not be a lot more on the rocks. But barriers get broken in this kind of art form as any. They get bolder every year in what they picture. It's approaching a place in its evolution of teenage rebellion where they're looking for the line that says no further. Lines drawn for decency were crossed so long ago not much is shocking anymore. It's funny that nothing can stop it from being a visual assault on a value system. Authorities, parents can't stop it. Short of keeping a guard there round the clock, nothing can be done to stop it. Attempts to stop it increase it.
I see it a living canvas. Like the abstract expressionist painter who looks awhile, then puts a splash of color in one place, then another someplace else, covering the canvas in unexpected colors and shapes. Spontaneous, apparently random, group expression one individual at a time blending all the names and desires with the generation of kids in school over the years. It's been at least 25 years of teenagers. I suppose that means the first ones to paint in there are in their 40s now. All the paint is still there, layer upon layer under the paint on the present surface. It's kind of like reincarnation. One grows and grows, then is gone, blotted out to nothingness, then another layer of something that grows with time until it, too, grows old and dies, is covered over as though it had never been. It comes back to life and grows into a work of art that makes me as happy to live where I live as the view either side of the Parkway from the museum grounds, best above on the road level. It's a beautiful panorama both directions. One way Traphill and beyond, the other way Whitehead, Pine Swamp, Gap Civil and beyond. An outdoor art museum with a view. You can't beat that. And we don't have to pay anybody to do it. No admission. There it is, like Natural Bridge in Virginia. Honk as you go through. It's fun. Kids love it. So does the kid within under several layers of experience where the words have no more meaning, and appear between other colors. Lines and colors. This moment had its day.