Hangars for Blimps

March 26, 2014

Suburban Regionalism

 

I had decided to work on this project while living in Sunnyvale where I recently moved, after living in San Francisco for over twenty years. One can feel a bit of a Rip Van Winkle when leaving a place and returning and suddenly seeing the changes that have happened. San Francisco, however, is close enough to notice the changes and I decided to stay close to Sunnyvale because most of my family lives in that area.  Several of my projects have been shot in Sunnyvale throughout the years. I like the idea of regionalism in art. Artists gain perspectives through the practice of art making and much of this perspective is valuable to the regions they live in or those regions they have left. Too many artists, I believe, leave a place with an attitude that they gave up on the place. The place was too this or that - too boring, homogenous, flat, congested with traffic, too wealthy or too poor, etc. When I left Sunnyvale I had much of this attitude but still my family was there and I always knew that my family had a connection to Sunnyvale that was unique. We had been there since the 1950s. My extended family worked in the canneries when they were in operation. Our backyard was full of fruit trees, many, we believed, were there because Sunnyvale was a place of orchards that was made into homes in the 1940s and 50s. My dad knew how to graft trees and so we had, for example, a peach growing from a plum tree. Through the years we saw, what was once the agriculturally rich Santa Clara Valley, nicknamed Valley of Hearts Delight for its fruit orchards, slowly but surely turn into Silicon Valley.  A friend reminded me recently that, although Sunnyvale was one of those places that one might want to leave behind, it had produced me and my band of friends who were full of creativity.

 

 

Moffett Field - North of Sunnyvale

 

Moffett Field is a naval airbase that had functioned through the years as a base for wartime dirigibles (blimps, zeppelins) that could be housed in the large hangar and a fleet of low flying airplanes that would monitor the San Francisco Bay for enemy ships or submarines. These gray old planes from the 1930s or 40s were still flying around regularly in 15 minute intervals into the 1970s. As children, my brothers and sisters would hear their drones as they flew the loop that past over Sunnyvale and returned to Moffett Field. In the night one could hear a loud grumble from far away to the north - the giant doors of the hangars closing for the night.

 

Naturally Moffett Field would have to make it into my story. The red glow in the night sky that is seen by different residents of the suburban town of Sunnyview is based on a true story. As a child me and some siblings did see a strange glow hanging still in the night sky, only it was a green glow, something like a phosphorous glow of frozen cloud streak. It was a UFO as far as we knew and it was the kind of thing you wouldn't find covered in the news. With Moffett Field and NASA being nearby, we figured it might have something to do with military or scientific experimentation. This memory has been one of the seeds of inspiration for this project. The mystery of the glow in the sky and all that was never explained. This is what Suburban RED is about. This is what the suburbs meant to me as a young adult. A place where there are no words or talks of greater mysteries, yet now I can see the sky and the stars in our backyard like I could never see in San Francisco.

 

 

Picasso and "Seeing the Image"

 

While working on a postcard of a giant squid hanging in the power lines of an electrical tower, I decided to add my own rendition of the Moffett Field hangars in the background. As I set up my miniature scene on top of a large box that once contained a flat screen television, I looked inside the Styrofoam packaging within and suddenly, I saw it! There was my miniature Moffett Field hangar. With a little imagination I could see how this formed piece of Styrofoam could make a quick impression of an air field hangar.

 

This technique of looking over random shapes of objects and images and seeing how one could re-present them to be something else I call "Finding the Image." It is a basic technique of Surrealists that sort of stems from the Rorschach Ink Blot tests where a psychologist's patient would look at an ink blot on a page (usually the ink was spilled on a page and folded over and smashed to create a symmetrical composition) and the patient would tell the psychologist what they saw in the shape. What they said would supposedly reveal a lot about them. That was the idea. Surrealists took ideas from psychology and so you can see many examples in the works of someone like Max Ernst where he clearly smashed and smeared paint onto a canvas to create random textures and shapes upon which he would "complete" into his final image - a landscape, perhaps, with all sorts of creatures which seem to blend in with the plants and rocks. This process was called decalcomania.

 

Picasso put a bicycle seat together with the handle bars as horns and the final image was clearly a representation of a bull's head. One of Picasso's great abilities was to find the image. He was so much into that process that one can easily say that he never knew what his final painting would look like because rather than following an inner vision that he wanted to put onto canvas, he let the images on the canvas lead him to another image. A reclining woman, for example, ends up to be a bull that seems to be howling at the moon.  The image came from him but was not concieved first in his mind.  He fell onto the image and then decided to stop, perhaps because that final image was one he did not expect to create and so he delighted in the invention.

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