“My intent is to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.”
The Springs Museum concerns itself with “History, Art and Community.” Art has been somewhat neglected until now. Wing Young Huie is not a resident of the Springs, but the art he created here constitutes an important document of the place. It is an artistic achievement and a historical archive of Boyes Hot Springs in 2007.
“I am the youngest of six and the only one in my family not born in China. For most of my life I’ve looked at my own Chinese-ness through a white, middle-class prism. Growing up in Duluth, Minnesota made it easy. After all, I was weaned on Snoopy, Mary Tyler Moore, and the Vikings. Mom made me pray to Buddha every New Year, but it was Jesus Christ Superstar who became my cultural touchstone. The result was that sometimes my own parents seemed exotic and even foreign to me.
They also were my first photographic subjects. I was twenty and living at home, experimenting with my new Minolta camera, when I made the first exposures of my dad in the kitchen. It was strange and exhilarating to look at someone so familiar so intently, and see something new. Now, some thirty years and hundreds of thousands of exposures later, I’m still trying to look at the world anew.
Inside the Springs follows my many projects that attempt to reflect the dizzying mixture of socioeconomic and ethnic realities that encompass our changing cultural landscape. My first major exhibition in 1996 focused on Frogtown, a St. Paul neighborhood plagued with a dubious reputation driven in part by media stories. I spent two years photographing the complexities and mystery behind those headlines.
I continue to focus on submerged communities that exist on the periphery of the prevailing cultural radar. My intent is to reveal not only what is hidden, but also what is plainly visible and seldom noticed.
I had never been to The Springs or Sonoma prior to my residency through the Sonoma Community Center. At the invitation of Shelly Willis, the former Artistic Director of the SCC, I spent one month photographing Boyes Hot Springs in October 2007. The process of photographing and interacting with people has remained, for the most part, the same since I photographed my own neighborhood in Duluth. I simply walk around, encountering people on the street, who then suggest or introduce others to photograph.
In this manner I meandered through the crooks and alleys of The Springs, photographing hundreds of citizens going about their daily lives. To describe a few: barbequing chickens, harvesting grapes at dawn, waiting for the school bus, a job, a blessing, a taco, dancing in the driveway, singing, jogging, mourning, celebrating, taking communion and pictures, aerobically swimming, tasting coffee and sweating communally.
It’s difficult to sum up what I saw or learned. I photographed a fraction of what is there, but I feel I saw a lot. Sometimes I get asked what is the purpose of what I do and I’m never sure how to answer. In a way, making those first photographs of my dad may have been one of the most intimate things I ever did with a man who was not easy to know. Maybe that’s the reason.
There were many who helped me along the way, including Mario Castillo and the Vineyard Workers Services, Libby Hodgson, manager of the Barking Dog, Eric Holman, Abdul and Celeste Winders, formerly of the Valley of the Moon Teen Center, Juanita Brinkley, Tarja Beck and the Finnish American Heritage Association, Ellen LaBruce and the La Luz Center, Martha Parra, Ross Drulis Cusenbery Architects, and all the folks at the Sonoma Community Center.”
With thanks to artist Jack Baker
One of the main objects of the Springs Museum is the study of Neighborhood Phenomena.
Perhaps not to define it to precisely is best. However, we can say that NP may be exceptional things or mundane things seen in an exceptional way. Collecting (and it is an exercise in collecting) NP is an act of noticing, something that it is all to easy not to do in an environment that is so familiar as we pass through it daily.
Photography is a good mode for collecting NP, as is sketching, sound recording, rubbings, or actually picking up objects (but try not to disturb the environment. Observers should limit their impact on the world being observed.) Study over time is of interest, so repeated visits to sites are encouraged.
Here is a list of some of the possible categories to look at.
How trees and built environment interact
Signs. What they say, how they change.
Pavement and how is deteriorates.
Plants in all their many different forms
Animals among us, including pets
Infrastructure such as wires, drains, etc.
Design-everything built is designed, if only by default
Holes in the ground
Mounds of things
Further Inspiration: Artists as collectors. Collections as art:
“The mission of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.”
“Including those items is part of the museum’s effort at redefinition, although the curators were drawing on an eccentric set of collections that were never really part of the natural history tradition. The facade of the building still bears its original title: Los Angeles County Historical and Art Museum. In fact, the art collection became the heart of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the early 1960s, when the “natural history” title was adopted.”
“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history out of their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning themselves into historians, archivists, even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, the Nation April 2014
“As Ellen Dissanayake has observed, the function of art is to “make special”; as such, it can raise the “special” qualities of place embedded in everyday life, restoring them to those who created them…”
“A starting point, for artists or for anyone else, might be simply learning to look around where you live now…”
“Psychologist Tony Hiss asks us to measure our closeness to neighbors and community and suggests ways to develop an “experiential watchfulness” over our regional “sweet spots,” or favorite places. Seeing how they change at different times of day, week and year can stimulate local activism…”
Quotes from The Lure of the Local, Lucy R. Lippard
The collection, and, by extension, the museum is a work of art:
“Bottle Village began as a practical need to build a structure to store Grandma Prisbrey’s pencil collection (which eventually numbered 17,000) and a bottle wall to keep away the smell and dust from the adjacent turkey farm. However, it was her ability to have fun and infuse wit and whimsy into what she made, which over time became the essence of Bottle Village. Practicality alone would not explain The Leaning Tower of Bottle Village, the Dolls Head Shrine, car-headlight-bird-baths, and the intravenous-feeding-tube-firescreen, a few examples of her delightfully idiosyncratic creations.” From the Bottle Village website. http://www.bottlevillage.com/