Wednesday, May 13, 2020

There and Here, Then and Now

This painting on paper is evidence of my early fumbling into painting and drawing from Google maps Street View images. The arrow that used to guide you through directions has been replaced by a more static, more subtle arrow. Directions 2.0.

Sometime about ten years after I had been there, I was tracing my way from Fiumicino airport to the center of Rome on Google Street View, looking for an orange tree that I had seen my first time abroad. Abroad. The word sounds like it’s from a different era, like sophomore. I was twenty-one years old.

On my laptop I traced the route from the airport to where it left the highway and then activated street view for a closer look. I remember the taxi was going down hill when I saw outside my window on the left, a stone wall and over the top of the wall I saw the orange tree. I had never seen an orange tree having spent all of my time in the north east. The bight orbs nested within a roundish green form looked other-worldly. The fact that it was behind a garden wall made me feel lucky for having caught sight of it. That feeling of wonder registered so deeply that ten years later I could still bring it up. Ten years later I searched for directions from Fiumicino to Via Cola di Rienzo, the street the hotel was on. 

So I was looking back on this route a decade after having been there in the flesh, in person, in a taxi. I am now looking at this drawing several years after drawing it (in the flesh, in person, in my room in New Orleans, as it were).

In this painting, the gaze is pointed forward, or the opposite direction of forward if the arrow is to be believed. The paper I used is brittle, not meant for drawing or painting. The painting includes not only the obsolete icon but a water stain in the sky.

I made the second painting at the same time and on the same route, pursuant of that orange tree I caught a glimpse of from a taxi at the very end of the last millennium. In this one I drew the arrow and trailing white line that appeared when one turned to view to the side of the directed route. I am constantly looking off the path for better or worse.

Why did I look back along this route at all? Simple: I was moved by an orange tree. Why am I looking back along the more metaphorical route now?  Both retracings weave together the past and the present. Here I am in the future once again looking at some picture that is, as they say, neither here nor there. All of this (the pictures and what I am doing now) shows a contradiction of intent, directions pointing one way, and also the other All along I have been painting, not from a defined point or toward a defined goal, but from and towards something I cannot name, sone side view, some distance that never takes form.

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