A couple of events happening around Tucson this weekend got me to thinking about the dimensions of cities and art.

For me, smaller cities, towns and rural areas, by providing more space, physically, mentally and alternative uses thereof of all of the above, allow for/force interesting art to happen.  I notice big cities, while full of perfectly lovely people, tend to get hung up on trendiness. Allow me to disparage Austin for a sec: let’s see, what do we have going on art-wise this week? A couple of printmaking (silkscreen, to be specific) shows, an zine release party on the street art tip; on the highbrow side, some lectures at the University, a commercial gallery show with a tome of a press release, and an installation-performance about the end of the world at an old house.

The installation-performance and apocalyptic theme have been “trending” over the course of the last year or so (but thinking back to those paintings I saw at arthouse in ’06/’07 or thereabouts — can’t find the info online). I think this is because one’s understanding of space in the city is so rigidly compartmentalized: exit ramp, median, lamppost, sidewalk, yard, office park, cool neighborhood, ghetto neighborhood, rich part of town. The destructive nature of this type of art satisfies the urge to break out of this utilitarian framework, to wrenchingly twist it past recognition in order to self-consciously surprise. While this is healthy and interesting and wonderful, it seems to me a bit like unrequited love. The cement does not give back, it merely reflects.

Lacking these utilities and dedicated facilities, smaller cities and rural areas allow artistically-minded inhabitants to make their mark on the environment — and for it to make its impact felt in reciprocation. I’m not talking about some sort of hippie utopia, just the everyday-ness of living in a place where everything is subtracted. There is a perception that things must happen in order for a place to be happening. What would happen if something didn’t happen?

As I’ve gotten older, my art has turned outward towards experiencing my environment, away from the introspection of growing up, something probably everyone goes through. I feel obligated a to make a detailed drawing of my next-door neighbor’s plastic-encased vegetable garden.

My dream is to be crank in the country, not a cog in a city.

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