This summer, I started working on a series of drawings that became to be about the search for utopia. It seemed at the time to be a totally random issue to focus on. I just knew I wanted to do something a little different, something to do with thinking about the world in an optimistic way, something about politics and finding my way through a lot of different things that were going on.
I had absolutely no idea at the time that Occupy Wall Street was getting started; I was off looking at Hieronymus Bosch, Buckminster Fuller, and Paolo Soleri, and not really thinking about NYC very much. I was more interested in architecture and the environment and how they could come together to create a new kind of space, and also how thinking would have to shift to value different things that we’ve been taught, in order to make utopia work.
I was thrilled when I first heard people were camping at Zuccotti Park – to me, it was all just street theater, but I like street theater! I brought them rain ponchos and vegan ice cream. In the first two weeks, it was a very small gathering, just a few dozen people sleeping out in the open and carrying signs. The media complained that they didn’t know what they stood for, but what did I care? They were super nice people who stood for things being different than what they are, and they were willing to put their lives on hold to try and change things. That was definitely good enough for me.
But it grew and grew, and by the time I went down there last Thursday, it had morphed into a well-organized city-within-a-city. All the things we’ve come to accept that the government can’t provide for us – child care, health care, food, public libraries – were there. It’s amazing to see all that stuff, which is the first to get cut in a budget crisis, was apparently considered to be of such importance that the protesters provided them to the public right away. I felt like I had been hit in my head: Oh right – this is exactly how it’s supposed to be. I used to know that… and then forgot.
Anyway. I’ve been going there as much as I can and trying to help out. I love that here was this idea (not original, I know) that I was playing around with on paper, and then here are these people actually trying to make another version work… and so now the drawings I’m making feel sort of in dialog with that. The people camped out at Zuccotti Park are revolutionaries, and my work isn’t – and isn’t meant to be. My work is about a process of thinking through things, playing with ideas, mixing things around and wondering, “what if?” I get to navel-gaze; the people in the park have to protect their computer equipment from rain, feed their supporters, and constantly explain their existence to doubters. But this to me is the wonderful thing that art can do – it can be this step back and this slowing down, and this playing around with ideas, just ever-so-slightly-removed from reality.
It’s a weird time in NYC, but it’s a good time, too.
Hey, I finally got some work professionally photographed!!
These are two large watercolor colors, each 22 x 30.