This project and the resulting body of work started in the best possible way…by accident. A few years ago while on a trip to deliver a sculpture to a client in San Antonio, I was passing through the Texas border town of Orla, NM, and noticed a lot of old abandoned houses and businesses. Something about them fascinated me. I had my camera with me and started taking photographs with no real clue of what I would do with them. I ended up with a treasure trove of images from the towns I passed through on that trip.
After letting my ideas percolate for a while, I decided to play with some of the images to accentuate the mood in them that I found intriguing. Doing this gave me the idea to continue with that theme and enlarge the feeling the photo evoked for me by incorporating it into a larger non-photographic panel. I settled on two different mediums to try this with…cast concrete, and acrylics on wood, and ended up liking both. And so, the American Prosperity series was born.
Eventually, I began to examine the reasons I’m drawn to old structures as the starting point for these pieces. Initially, it was the dark moodiness of the buildings that attracted me. But there is also the story they tell. When first looking through the images, I thought that many told a story of poverty and decline, and no doubt some of them do. The longer I looked at them, however, the more I realized I couldn’t really know their histories, and I was inventing stories to fit what I wanted to think about these places. After further consideration, I think they hold stories we simply don’t get to know: “What happened to the people who lived here?” “Why did they leave?” “Where did they go?” “Why did they leave all of this stuff here?” At best, we can invent a story to finish where the photos leave off, but we will never be certain.
As this series evolves, I will continue to photograph old abandoned buildings wherever I can find them, and to experiment with different aspects of my process to create evocative panels that invite you into their narrative.