As a writer, I’m always looking for new inspiration, and found it at Desert X, an installation art exhibit in the Palm Springs area, where my husband Robert and I recently spent a few weeks. Internationally renowned installation artists had set up their work for the public’s enjoyment and study. We weren’t able to get to all the sites, but here are a few that made an impression.
Mirage by Doug Aitken
This installation, set in the desert, was the most outstanding and the one most visited by tourists and locals alike. Though the Desert X exhibition formally ends at the end of May, this one will remain until the end of October.
Doug Aitken’s design is basically a bungalow covered in mirrors inside and out. What struck me as I ventured into the building behind many others was the odd feeling of seeing myself in nature.
The contrast between nature and what man has built is striking. Nature is not solid and unbending like a house. As well, in nature man does not see himself when he takes in a view or a photo of a flower or a landscape.
But at this installation, I felt the artist was asking us to consider our place in nature. How do we fit in? Are we so absorbed with ourselves that we don’t see the beauty around us? We don’t see the fragile nature of our planet; how much it depends on us.
There is much to ponder here, as we consider the environment around us.
The Circle of Land and Sky by Phillip K. Smith III
Robert and I were fortunate to find the artist on site when we visited this extraordinary offering. Phillip K. Smith III had erected vertical mirrors (yes, mirrors played a part here as well) in a circle like Stonehenge. Each one of 300 vertical columns was taller than any man and positioned at a 10 degree angle. We saw it in the evening when there was a full moon.
A good number of visitors had brought lawn chairs and were seated within the circle. The artist said that he had constructed it in hopes of stimulating a conversation and encouraging a gathering.
Given the fact that so many today are glued to their cell phones or tablets when they are out in restaurants or standing in line at a movie, his statement seemed more than appropriate.
How did we get to this point where people find it more interesting to stare at a small screen than have a conversation with their families or friends? Yes, they chat on Snapchat, over Facebook, Twitter and the like, but it’s not face to face conversation. Are they really seeing who is in their circle of life?
Curves and Zigzags by Claudia Comte
Claudia Comte’s freestanding wall in the desert gives the illusion that it’s straighter than it is. It appears differently depending on what angle it is viewed.
It reminds me again of how true it is that we don’t always see what there is to see. Or what we see is different from what others see. It all depends on our point of view. And as a result, we come up with a different understanding. That is the beauty of art. There is no one way of looking at things.
As I’m writing about Comte’s work, I’m thinking of what’s going on right now in Washington. Each news station is trying to make sense of the daily mixed messages out of the White House. If you are a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian or a combination of any of these or something else, you will view what is being said and what is being shown differently. Because of your viewpoint, you will interpret what you see and hear in your own way.
The curves and zigzags of the artist’s wall also reminded me of what heat waves look like. I’ve seen their undulating curves above the ground on a very hot day.
What About You?
After seeing these wonderful installations, I was inspired to write and tell my stories, to reflect back what I see and understand.
Does installation art, or any other art for that matter, inspire you? Inspire you to consider your perspective when you write? Thoughts and comments are always appreciated.
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