Meditation in Landscape through Creative Process: The Desert Southwest (Part 1 of 3)

Words by Taylor Hanigosky and Chrissie White
Photos by Taylor Hanigosky and Chrissie White

Follow a trail of pink powder into the canyon at dusk. (Collect your attention at the backs of your knees). Do you feel the slants of pink light stretching to touch you there? And falling like rolling stones down your calves into the sand?

Trace the edges of erosion with the weathered tips of your fingers. (Find an impression of your shape in the face of this rock right here that is very old). Do you feel the grains of sand lifting off your skin? And forming a drift at the base of that cottonwood over there?

Gather all your scattered bits and arrange them into the bowl of a pink rock. (Follow pink powder back home). Do you know that your palms will always be pink? And that this sand will live between your toes?

— Grandstaff Canyon, Utah

 Video performance in Valley of Fire, Nevada. 2018.

 

What we came here for was time. And with every mile on the hot pavement beneath our tires, we got further away from it. We pitch our tent somewhere in northwestern New Mexico. Before that, it was Nevada. We lay our backs onto the earth and fall asleep, vowing to wake before the light returns so we might have some kind of conversation with it. But when we meet with dark, still dawn, we rub our tired eyes and muster up all the courage left in our pockets to string together a sentence.

We are on a dusty journey. Through highland desert, salty valleys, and barren badlands across the Southwestern United States. With backgrounds in photography, we have set out to record the shapes of light on the ground. As artists, we are curious about the visual embodiments of time in a landscape. And as beings who live in bodies within the context of time, we are endlessly fascinated by the parallels between us and the rocks we seek to explore. Perhaps you could say we are doing the work of translation. But these stark and seemingly desolate landscapes often elude language. Here in the desert where the rocks stand so exposed and naked, yet so shrouded in mystery (where the land is so resolute, yet so soft and vulnerable). We have come to bury our egos in the sand. Let the art we carry home be our witness.

Still from video performance in Joshua Tree, California. 2018.

Texture study from landscapes in Nevada and New Mexico. 2018.

 

Last October, something like 5,000 miles. This year—same time, same place—feels something like a pilgrimage. We are re-entering these landscapes to pick up where we left off, to dust off what we left behind, to see if we can find the depressions our bodies left in the sand. Maybe we’ll find we’re still alien voyeurs to these canyons. There’s something of these craggy formations, hoodoos and brittle sandstone soil crusts that feels so otherworldly. Or perhaps, when we nestle our bare bodies into the curving crevice of a rock, we’ll touch the rock and feel the rock touch back. We’ll touch home, if home is some universal feeling compressed deep within these earth-made bodies—ours and the rocks’.

 Video performance in Valley of Fire, Nevada. 2018.

We’re driving through the southwest, following our creativity, and listening to the stories in the rocks. This is a 3-part series, and we’ll be publishing updates here as we go. Check back for more desert-inspired art, weird roadside stop-offs, and a look into our creative process.

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