To Culver City taking a north-westerly route.

Detail of ‘Pronghorn Diorama’ 1987. (Roger Brown) Oil on canvas, wood and taxidermy 72”X72”X21”

Part 1 – Chicago IL to Culver City CA

This second trip to Culver City, and the Museum of Jurassic Technology was organized to take a route through the northern states to the West Coast via Oregon to California. To some degree again the destinations were chosen based upon similar road trips that Roger Brown took from the 1970’s and into the 90’s. This trip included two key visits on the outward journey, firstly to Seaside Oregon to meet Dennis Adrian the writer and critic who was a close friend and confidant to Roger Brown from the early 1960’s. Having found Dennis’s writing so useful in developing my understanding of Roger Brown’s dimensional artworks and Virtual Still Life object paintings I took the opportunity of this trip west to spend time with Dennis in order to get to know the man behind the writing.

There are a number of roads south to Los Angeles from Portland OR, and I made sure to take the one that passes right through San Francisco in order to meet with Phyllis Kind. Phyllis was the sole representative of Roger Brown’s work via her galleries in Chicago and New York for almost three decades. She has been significant for her promotion of the work of a number of Chicago artists, as much as aiding the development of the profile of the art scene in Chicago. Again almost without any set agenda other than to understand a little about her as a person I simply wanted to meet her.

With many more sights and stops along the way this slightly longer route provided additional opportunities to reference Roger Brown’s paintings of landscape, roadside discoveries and attractions, and certainly without parallel, to see Antilocapridae americana, the American Pronghorn Antelope at large.

Pronghorn Diorama (1987 72”X72”X21”)

Pronghorn Diorama 1987 Oil on canvas, wood and taxidermy 72”X72”X21” (photo: William H. Bengston)

Friday 23rd March, to Spring Lake (Neshkoro) WI

Via Horicon Marsh – http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/wildlife_areas/horicon/

Horicon wildlife refuge Wisconsin.

Horicon Wildlife Refuge Wisconsin.

Saturday 24th March, to Fargo ND

Via Osseo WI,

Having spent a night in Spring Lake with Lisa Stone and Don Howlet, I was assured that any journey North was incomplete without stopping in Osseo to sample the Pies at the Norske Nook.

Osseo WI.

The Norske Nook in Osseo WI

“Welcome” to North Dakota


Sunday 25th March to Missoula MT,

Via Hebron ‘The Brick City’ ND – http://www.hebronnd.org/

Hebron ND. Founded in 1885 by settlers from the Crimea, known for its brick production since 1910.

Hebron ND.

Hebron ND

South-West North Dakota

South-West North Dakota

“Welcome” to Montana.

Monday 26th March to Tigerd (Portland) OR

via Idaho, Spokane WA and the Columbia River Gorge.

“Welcome” to Washington

Interstate 395 south of Connell WA

Mount Hood viewed from Interstate 30 on the south bank of the Columbia River OR.

Portland –

An overnight stay in Portland bought many surprises aside from the Portland Art Museum and the Portland History Museum, the Hoyt Arboretum a rain drenched forest holds moss laden trees within walking distance of down town. The Portland Art Museum has astounding displays  of Pacific Coast First Nations art and craft. And then to my complete surprise in the recently reopened Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art an iconic Roger Brown painting Top “O” The Town, (1979) is displayed alongside an equally iconic work by Karl Wirsum, Gang Way Day Before Today (1985). The painting depicts an arrangement of five buildings with their upper floors piercing a thick billowy cloud layer which is overall framed by an upper and lower cloud bank which calls to mind a stylized art deco cinema screen frame. True to form Brown populates these buildings with silhouetted human figures depicted as if their shadows are cast, neatly defined upon yellowing paper blinds. The figures on each floor appear locked in a series of dramatic interactions, like a series of comic book frames building towards some randomly observed narrative high point. There are two exceptions. The figures in many of Roger Brown’s paintings are recognizable as depictions of his parents, usually these are stylized to such a degree that the images he paints function as generic representations of smartly dressed men and women styled to the 1940’s. One of the exceptions here is that in the middle upper windows of the towers on the lower left and right a female figure on the left and male on the right, appear not in silhouette, but as fully formed representations of his mother and father. This is certainly not without precedent in Brown’s paintings but I certainly feel an element of surprise whenever the depictions, as it were pop out of the almost mute flatness of being a shadow and into being fully recognizable and identifiable people. The use of such vivid portraits always raises a question for me around how this additional detail appears to be indicating some additional, possibly personal, narrative. In this particular instance Mrs. Brown and Mr. Brown appear to be communicating silently across the clouds to each other. She is waving at him, he is looking on contentedly in her direction.

It is also interesting to see a subtle but quite significant affirmation of same sex interaction and given the deliberately animated nature of the other interactions I think its safe to assume that this is whats going on here. In the middle window on the third level down in the middle tower, which happens to be the most phallic of the five buildings, a male figure appears to be addressing another male figure who can be seen facing him in the window to the left. The gestures and body positioning of both men suggests a calm intimacy. The most interesting aspect, and indeed the reason these two pairs of figures stand out, is that they are both quite calm in their interactions which stands in marked contrast to the other couples, trios and solo figures that are depicted elsewhere in the five buildings.

Portland Art Museum. Roger Brown’s Top”O”The Town (1979), displayed in close proximity to artworks by Karl Wirsum, Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz, George Segal, and others.

Roger Brown, Top “O” The Town, Oil on Canvas, 72 X 71 3/4 ins. 1979.

Detail, Roger Brown, Top “O” The Town, Oil on Canvas, 72 X 71 3/4 ins. 1979. lower left and right towers.

Detail, Roger Brown, Top “O” The Town, Oil on Canvas, 72 X 71 3/4 ins. 1979. The middle tower.

Karl Wirsum, Gang Way Day Before Today, Acrylic on Canvas, 1985.

MORE SOON –

WORK IN PROGRESS – Please stick with it, more images and other stuff is on its way – NL

Tuesday 27th to Thursday 29th March

Seaside OR

Visit to Dennis Adrian –

Crater Lake OR

Thursday 29th March

Redding CA

Friday 30th March

Old Faithful Geyser of California

1299 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515

http://www.oldfaithfulgeyser.com/index.html

The Petrified Forest

4100 Petrified Forest Road, Calistoga CA 94515

http://www.petrifiedforest.org/

Point Reyes National Lakeshore CA

http://www.nps.gov/pore/index.htm

Friday 30th  March to Sunday 1st April

San Francisco CA

Sunday 1st April

Madonna Inn CA

100 Madonna Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

http://www.madonnainn.com

La Purisma Mission, State Historic Park, Lompoc CA

Wild Oak Road, Cebeda Canyon, Lompoc CA

http://www.lapurisimamission.org/

6745 Ojai, La Conchita CA

6.00pm – Arrival in Culver City at the Museum of Jurassic Technology

TOTAL Outward journey 3467 mi

Part 2 Culver City CA to (Chicago) Beach Park IL via…

Tuesday May 1st

Sequoia National Park

Fresno CA

Wednesday May 2nd

Yosemite National Park

South Lake Tahoe CA

Thursday May 3rd

Bonneville Flats

Salt Lake City

Ogden UT

Friday May 4th

Golden Spike Monument, Promontory UT

Spiral Jetty

Soda Springs ID

Jackson WY

Saturday May 5th

Grand Teton National Park (Safari)

Sunday May 6th

Yellowstone National Park

Monday May 7th

Keystone SD

Tuesday May 8th

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Hill City SD

Rapid City SD

Wednesday May 9th

Badlands National Park

Sioux Falls SD

Thursday May 10th

Walnut Grove SD

Minneapolis MN

Friday May 11th

The Farmers Union Bank Owotona MN

Horicon Wildlife Refuge WI

Beach Park IL

5532 miles from Culver City CA, to Beach Park IL.

Total trip mileage 8999 miles

The Artists’ Museum of Chicago, North window, 1926 North Halsted, Chicago IL.

Part 1 – Chicago IL to Opelika AL

The initial leg of this trip from Chicago to Alabama has been organized around visits to sites that were significant to Roger Brown and also sites that are important as artists environments. James Connolly, assistant Curator at the Roger Brown Study Collection, will be joining me until September 15th when he has to return to Chicago.

Sept 8th – Depart (Beach Park) Chicago IL.

9.30 am – Breakfast – XXX Diner Lafayette IN

The XXX Family Restaurant one of a chain of restaurants known for their own branded XXX Rootbeer. Now only two remain, “on the level” and the one depicted “on the hill” Lafayette IN, since 1929.

12.00 pm – Serpent Mound OH – http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/places/sw16/index.shtml

Roger Brown, Ohio Snake Mound, Oil on Canvas, 72"x56" 1973

Roger Brown, Ohio Snake Mound Tour With Burial Sites, oil on canvas, 54 12 x 72 1/4” 1973

Overnight – arrive 10.00pm at Cave City KY at the Wigwan Village Inn #2.

The Wigwam Village Inn, Cave City KY

Sept 9th – 9.00am- Mammoth Cave KY – http://www.nps.gov/maca/index.htm

Roger Brown, Cave Park, Oil on Canvas, 1971.

Roger Brown, Cave Park, oil on canvas, 48 x 48″ 1971.

Arrive 1.00 pm Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL – http://www.avemariagrotto.com/content/information

The Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman, AL

The Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman, AL

Shell Urn, Ave Maria Grotto, Cullman AL

Arrive  6.00pm – in Birmingham AL – Overnight stay.

Sept 10th – am Birmingham AL – arrive (midday) Montgomery AL

9.00 am – Joe Minter’s ‘African Village in America’ Birmingham AL – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsWiizTlHtM

Why America, a detail of Jo Minters African Village in America, Birmingham AL

‘Why America’, a detail of Jo Minters African Village in America, Birmingham AL

1.00 pm – meet Greg and Benedicte Brown (Roger Brown’s brother and sister-in-law)

3.00 pm – Montgomery Museum – http://www.mmfa.org/

Roger Brown, “Dr. Imperials Tree of Knowledge” Oil on Canvas, neon and wood, 106″X72″X3″, 1985

Sept 10th – 7.00pm – Arrive in Opelika AL.

Sept 11th – 1224 Glen Street, Opelika and the Rock House Museum, Beulah AL

Sept 12th – The Rock House Museum, Beulah AL

The Rock House, Beulah, AL

Sept 13th – Selma AL – The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute.

The drinking fountain exhibit at the Voting Rights Museum, Selma, AL

The drinking fountain exhibit at the National Voting Rights Museum, Selma, AL

Sept 14th –  Rural Studio sites in Hale County and Perry County AL – http://apps.cadc.auburn.edu/rural-studio/ the film Citizen Architect: Sam Mockbee and the Rural Studio. (2010) is a superb record of the development of the Rural Studio and includes interview footage of Sam Mockbee the creator of the project.

The Hale County Animal Shelter, a project of the Rural Studio, Hale County AL.

Part 2 – Opelika AL to Culver City CA

Sept 15th – depart Montgomery AL 10.00 am arrive Little Rock AR 5.00 pm. Overnight in Little Rock.

Sept 16th – Depart Little Rock 6.00 am, arrive 1.30 pm in Oklahoma OK – The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

"Hunting The American West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma, OK.

The “Hunting The American West” diorama at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma, OK.

Sept 17th –  Depart Oklahoma City 5.30 am arrive 1.00pm in Santa Fe NM – The Museum of International Folk Art

Two separate displays in the exhibition Folk Art of The Andes, a presentation of 850 items. On the left is a detail of a box with miniature market scenes this one is a millinery store, Lima Peru made in the late 1800’s from dried potato paste, on the right is a display of hats also from Peru.

A view of the Girard Collection – Multiple Visions: A Common Bond. The displays were designed and personally supervised by Alexander Girard collector and benefactor to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe NM.

Sept 18th – Santa Fe NM – The Museum of Indian Crafts and Culture – laboratory of Anthropology and The Museum on Contemporary Native Arts. (no photography allowed)

A display concerning Native ceramic traditions at the Museum of Indian crafts and culture, Santa Fe, NM.

Sept 19th – – The Gallegos House in Villanueva NM, a private house that inspired Roger Brown to create his proposal for an adobe home at Lompoc CA. And visit two Private Collections Santa Fe to view two Object Paintings by Roger Brown.

The Gallegos House in Villanueva, NM. The house which Roger Brown based the plans for his adobe style home at Lompoc, CA.

left: Roger Brown, Virtual Still Life #9: Casa Grandes Black Virgin With Candy Apple Red, oil on canvas with mixed media including ceramic, 17 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 7 1/4”, 1995 and right: detail.

left: detail of right. right: Roger Brown, Virtual Still Life #20: Denuded Landscape With Imitation Wood Vases, oil on canvas with ceramic objects, 24 x 36 x 12”, 1996.

Sept 20th – Depart Santa Fe 5.30 am arrive 3.30pm in Tucson AZ –

Sept 22nd  St Xavier Del Bac Mission. and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Two details from the St Xavier Del Bac Mission, known as the ‘white dove of the desert’. On the left a statue of the Madonna  holding the sacred heart and on the right, the east wall with its stoup containing holy water.

A humming bird at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson.

Sept 23rd – Tucson to Culver City, depart Tucson 6.30am via Yuma AZ, Niland and Salton Sea CA.

The USA-California border with Mexico, west of Yuma AZ on Interstate Highway 8.

11.30 am – Salvation Mountain (Niland CA)

Salvation Mountain Love Car. One of the vehicles decorated by Leonard Knight at Salvation Mountain, Niland CA.

Atmospheric distortions on the horizon viewed from the eastern shoreline of Salton Sea.

Sept 23rd – 3.30pm – Arrive at the ‘Roger Brown’ Spartan Royal Mansion Trailer, The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City, CA

Welcome! to the Roger Brown Spartan Royal Mansion trailer.

There’s always a warm welcome at the Roger Brown Spartan Royal Mansion trailer, which now resides in Culver City, CA. The arrangement here calls to mind very strongly a painting by Roger Brown from his teen years (below).

Roger Brown, untitled still life, date unknown. gouach, ink or watercolor on paper.

4504 miles from Beach Park IL (Chicago) to Culver City CA.

Part 3 – Culver City CA to Chicago

The arrival of Winter and a change of plan

The initial plan for my return was to travel North-East from Culver City CA to see Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, while also stopping off on the way just north of Las Vegas NV to see Michael Heizer’s Double Negative. From here, following the theme of monumental sculptures in the North American landscape I had planned to go North-East through Wyoming into South Dakota to Mount Rushmore National Park. Heading East from here back to Chicago through the buffalo reserves and grasslands of the Dakota plains the journey should take about three days. I had hoped the impending change in the seasons would bring crisp dry air over the mountains. While this was clearly hedging my bets to a certain degree I had really not anticipated the brief foretaste of winter that descended.  The day before I was due to leave Culver City the weather turned cold, not just cold for Southern California but pretty cold by Chicago standards too. The temperature dipped into the mid 40’s Fahrenheit and it rained for almost the whole day on October 5th and overnight into the 6th. The difficulty of this kind of weather at this time lay in the path it was taking to North East. What was falling as rain in the Los Angeles area would turn to sleet and wet snow in the high desert and as it traveled further East to the mountains it would become snow. This meant that Southern Utah, parts of Colorado and potentially large portions of Wyoming would be declared as no-go areas for motor traffic. Essential journeys only and with extreme caution messages were offered to drivers via the national weather services over the next three days. I decided to plot another course to the South.

While initially feeling quite disappointed at missing out on seeing the earthworks I began researching into the detail that a southerly route might offer. A natural landmark in Kansas called Monument Rocks stood out, literally as I found when I was there, and would certainly be worth a visit. Located just north of Scott City in West-Central Kansas, these pillar like rock formations are the remnants of an ancient inland seabed, this area now marks the heart of the Kansas Badlands region. Somewhat remarkably, through the actions of wind and rain the land around the Monument has eroded to leave a series of towers and ridges made of chalk. Most are about 70 – 100 feet high but their height is sharply accentuated against the vast horizontal on the plains. Additional erosion is evident though the effects of a couple of centuries of tourist traffic also. It’s worth noting also that throughout the area there are many bluffs and shallow canyons that reveal the same kind of chalky outcrops, but the only other formation in the region of this kind is known as Castle Rock  which stands about 70 miles further North-East, close to the city of Quinter KS.

From the Badlands of Kansas the plan would then be to head North-East staying overnight in Kearney NE on the Platte River. Then on the trail of some more Roger Brown related details the next day the plan was to arrive in Canistota SD around midday on the 8th October, and with one more overnight stop in Minneapolis I should arrive back in Illinois by mid afternoon of the 9th.

October 6th – heading east to an over night stay in Las Vegas New Mexico

October 7th – Monument Rocks, Scott City, Kansas to Kearny Nebraska overnight.

7th October, early morning in New Mexico, looking west towards the mountains and the edge of the storm.

7th October, early morning in New Mexico, looking west towards the mountains and the edge of the storm.

South East Colorado

Sorghum one of the four principle crops produced in Kansas, the others being, wheat, soybeans and corn.

It has always been interesting to me to see close up the circular planting that is so characteristic of crop management on the plains, the familiar circular patterns that are so easily discernible on much of the landscape when flying over the Midwest. The edge of the crop radius is visible on the left of the picture.

The approach to Monument Rocks, Lewis County, Kansas. Seen here from around 7 miles north of County Road 4.

The southern approach to Monument Rocks.

Monument Rocks, Kansas. The small-sized SUV to the right of the picture offers some indication of the scale.

Monument Rocks, Kansas.

Martin nest clusters in the undercut ledges on the east face of the rocks.

Martin nests constructed from mud on the east face of the rocks.

A chalk archway on the western range of Monument Rocks, again martin nests can be seen just above the archway to the right.

Monument rocks seen from the east on highway 23, overland 10 miles (27 miles by road).


October 8th – Canistota South Dakota – To find the former home and studio of Burnette G Pletan, ‘The Worlds Fastest Scenic Artist’. Then on to Minneapolis overnight.

Looking for Canistota   …go north on SR 81 then turn left onto 261st street.

…after five miles turn right on 7th Ave.

…then left, arriving at Main Street, Canistota, SD.

The site of one of Burnette G. Pletan’s ‘studios is said to have stood to the right of the Post Office in Canistota, 57012, SD.

These two views above are of Burnette G. Pletan’s Artists Museum in Hill City South Dakota, as it appeared in the mid to late 1970’s when it was photographed by Roger Brown. In response to seeing these buildings in South Dakota Roger Brown decided to incorporate his collection at 1926 North Halsted street as the Artists’ Museum of Chicago. After much speculation and having originally thought that these buildings were in Canistota SD (it’s now clear they are not) on my return to Chicago in Mayl I passed through Hill City to check the location and can now confirm the location of this building – see the details and pictures above from Hill City SD.

Over the years one of the entertaining pass-times for all who work at the Roger Brown Study Collection has been to periodically Google-search the name Burnette G. Pletan. In one of these idle moments on September 26th, seemingly by complete chance the image of the plate depicted above appeared. On September 18th 2011, in the blog The Adventures of Artsy Nina, the author of this blog revealed that she had acquired this plate in a mixed box at an estate auction the week before.  The painting on this plate is unmistakable as the work of Burnette G Pletan and the label on the underside confirms this. The label also indicates the location of Pletan’s Artists Museum as being in Canistota, South Dakota. Following this lead, the first clue since the Roger Brown Study Collection was established, the place where Roger Brown’s photographs were is still a speculation though it does seem possible that one of Burnette G. Pletan’s studios once stood on Main Street in the city of Canistos SD.

October 9th – Return to Beach Park, IL. HOME –

2540  miles from Culver City CA, to Beach Park IL.

Total trip mileage 7044 miles

The Artists’ Museum of Chicago, North window, 1926 North Halsted, Chicago IL.

The Travel Proposal – March 2011

From Chicago to Chicago via Opelika AL, Santa Fe NM, Culver City CA, and Lompoc CA.

The initial research into Roger Brown’s La Conchita CA home, studio and garden, that culminated in the exhibition Roger Brown Calif. U.S.A. and the six publications associated with it, was also accompanied by a number of creative responses that took the form of a set of scale models of objects in arrangements from the La Conchita collection, a scale model of the house designed by Stanley Tigerman, the production of a three reel Viewmaster™ set, and a DVD of animations and slide shows depicting the exhibition in construction and related research materials.

In the process of developing the exhibition, Roger Brown Calif. U.S.A., I have been able to test and develop working methods that bring together curatorial work with art making activity. Part object conservation, part intuitive response, this approach has involved the re-creation of specific details from Roger Brown’s La Conchita home, studio and garden both as architectural components of the exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center, and in the form of six scale models included as exhibits in the exhibition. My model making activity arose mainly as an intuitive function in response to the collection. The model making became a way for me to contemplate the composition of Roger Brown’s collection, as a series of arrangements and as collections of individual objects. And then to take into account the placing of each object set and its position in the overall scheme of the house. The models functioned for me in the making and thinking process much as if they were drawings in three dimensions, renderings that explore the arrangements of objects and the collecting sensibilities of Roger Brown.

As creative responses these models allow a thinking-into the intentions of the specific arrangements. In the process of their making the integrity of each assembly of objects can be interrogated in great detail. The close scrutiny of the objects and then the making of their likeness in miniature allows an extended evaluation of the specific qualities of each object. The information that is gleaned reveals perhaps some aspects Roger Brown’s own decision making as he, in bringing these things together, made his own creative responses in the process of acquiring, arranging and rearranging the objects in his home and subsequently his inclusion of some of these objects in the virtual still life object painting series.

As an approach to curatorial planning, the creative processes I employed in conception and construction of Roger Brown Calif. U.S.A., have given rise to insights and details that might have otherwise remained un-noticed. Had I employed for example a solely object based assessment and narrative description focused approach, that which is commonly accepted as museological, the intuitive and conscious responses that were clearly employed by Roger Brown as he was assembling the collection, may have not been so clear. There is evidence in the models of both observational techniques, the demands of working to scale, and there is a display of artistic skill in the reproduction of object shapes, the approximation of form and volume and the recreation of surface decoration in miniature.

The two projects I am proposing to conduct for my sabbatical work will take what has been leaned in the construction of the recent exhibition as a starting point for new research into two unrealized home studio and garden projects that Roger Brown proposed in the last decade of his life.

Proposed project: Roger Brown’s unrealized Homes and gardens. An investigation in two parts.

During the course of recent research (since February 2009) of Roger Browns home, studio and garden at La Conchita CA, a number of archival materials have come to my attention that indicate Brown’s plans to build an adobe home at Lompoc CA, and a garden close to his parents home in Alabama, in the form of a map of the United States.

Part one – Amongst Browns notes there exists a series of sketches and drawings for an adobe home, with studio, guest-house and garden. These notes indicate that the structure was to be based upon the Gallegos House at Santa Fe in New Mexico. At some time in the early 1990’s Brown had purchased a plot of land at Lompoc CA and the archive also contains surveyors drawings of the site and geological assessment notes. one of his sketches for the house is included in the itinerary section above.

There are indications in one of Roger Brown’s sketches also that the architect Stanley Tigerman might have been involved in discussions about the function and form of the building. One of the drawings includes a curious note in Brown’s hand writing, that designates part of the building as ‘Stanley’s Barn’. We know from other sources in Santa Barbara that Roger and Stanley took a trip out to La Purisma Mission State Park – http://www.lapurisimamission.org/ so that Roger could show Stanley the exact shade of pink that he would like to use for his La Conchita home and studio. The color is a particular pinkish, light terra cotta shade traditionally made from red earth, probably with lime wash added and used in the making of traditional adobe structures.

This part of my sabbatical project will involve the creation of a scale model of the adobe home, studio and garden at Lom Poc that Roger Brown visualized in his drawings but did not complete. As a creative response to Roger Brown’s vision the project will involve archival research and speculative model making and will culminate in a series of detailed two and three dimensional representations of the house and then the assembly of an imaginary collection for the house.

Detail of a sketch by Roger Brown for an adobe style building at Lom Poc, CA.

Detail of a sketch by Roger Brown for an adobe style building at Lompoc, CA. late 1990’s

Part two In August 1996 Roger Brown made a plan drawing for a garden at 1224 Glen Street, in close proximity to his parents home in Alabama. Intended as a gift for his parents the garden is conceived as a topographical and botanic image of the United States. He included topiary to represent Chicago and Manhattan, there are grass prairies, flanked by a rock gorge representing the Colarado river. to its right (east) a second water course, the mighty Mississippi, leads to a wet garden area in the part of the garden that might be designated as Louisiana. The garden includes three buildings, significantly a greenhouse, a painting storage facility and a house. The greenhouse is accompanied by a note that says, “for outdoor potted plants for Mother in Winter”. The building designate as a ‘painting storage’ building might suggest that part of his vision was to provide space for an archive and a long term holding space of his life’s work. The large house right of the center that is depicted in the drawing by Brown (below) indicates that it was to be moved here from another site. It is a mid 19th century wooden structure of the kind that Brown admired for its vernacular qualities.

Detail of a drawing by Roger Brown for a garden at 1224 Glenn Street Opelika AL.

The plans for the garden were very ambitious covering a site of what looks like it could be as large as three or four acres. Although while it seems clear that Roger Brown had every intention of carrying out his plans, again the garden and buildings were never realized.

My intention with this part of the sabbatical project will be to imagine the site in two and three-dimensional media leading to the construction of a main scale model accompanied by a series of scale models representing details from the site. Once constructed the models will function as a photographic set from which to produce a series of stereoscopic Viewmaster™ and bi-color (red/green) 3D images that can be presented alongside the models and drawings.

Creativity and Pedagogy:

As I have described above in the process of researching the Roger Brown Calif. U.S.A. exhibition I have been able to test and develop working methods that bring together curatorial work with art making activity. An approach that preferences neither one set of disciplines over the other. I am extremely interested in understanding more about how these methods, the production of artifacts as a creative response to the material evidence of a creative artists life, yield details about the creative intentions of their subject about the processes of making, and the material attributes that underlie the contexts and conditions of their creative activity.

In understanding some of the creative sensibilities of Roger Brown as an artist and collector, I have been able to re-imagine his intentions to some degree. Additionally this approach necessarily includes investigations into the intentions of the makers of the objects in his collection and the objects subsequently included in the object painting series. A key aspect of this process has been the growth and nourishment of my own creative life and intentions, both as an artist and a curator.

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