“L’automne est un deuxième printemps où chaque feuille est une fleur.”
When I was clerking for a federal judge a few years ago, I started a project drawing the U.S. presidents. It was triggered by my acquisition of a 1981 set of World Book Encyclopedia and the delight in reading historical entries for our nation’s forefathers, all the way up to, but not including Reagan. Also, I was taking classes at the time at the Ann Arbor Art Center with Heather Accurso who makes sometimes terrifying baby art. These are some of my drawings from the president project.
Fall foliage gets loads of attention, but I also love fall flowers, which I guess are really summer flowers drying on their stems, but gorgeous nonetheless. I pulled together this quick arrangement cutting flowers from a friend’s garden. My favorite is the echinacea/coneflower, here without any petals. Just the spiky central disk.
Actually, no real geometry was used in assembling these quick home-made garlands for a friend’s bachelorette weekend in upstate New York. I used brown bags from the grocery store and cut up a bunch of haphazard triangles, while watching the West Wing (working my way through all the seasons for the third time). I probably could have taken out triangles that had writing on them, but nothing says “celebration” like “CONTAINS 40% POST CONSUMER CONTENT.” Also, I like how the writing and little bits of red print broke up the garland.
When I quit my job several months ago, I did not have a Master Plan. All I knew was that I had to go on a road trip. I decided that rather than photograph my adventures, I would draw them, the thought being that drawing would force me to be more “present.” I’m posting those drawings and thoughts from the trip in installments. The first post is here, the second is here. This is the third.
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When I left Palm Springs for San Diego, I drove a southerly route, towards the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a man-made accident. Query whether man can make accidents? A man-instigated accident? Before the Hoover Dam, in the early 20th Century, the California Development Company attempted to reroute the Colorado River to irrigate a chunk of land in Southern California. It worked for a time. The canal was dubbed the Imperial Canal. But within a few years, the project failed and in 1905 a major flood breached dikes that the Company had built, dumping water into what was basically a dry lake bed. The water has no natural outflows and over time it’s become saltier and saltier. So basically, it’s not useful for agriculture and fish don’t thrive in it.
Driving through Salton City is bleak, bleak, bleak, and gorgeous in a tragic sort of way. (Hello! I’m from greater Detroit. Tragic beauty is my jam.) The town was founded in the 1950s as a seaside resort town, which I presume explains why the street names have hopeful seaside names like “Dolphin Drive” and “Sea Gull Avenue.” Problem is these streets lead past big dusty empty plots of land towards mobile homes and ramshackle adobe structures. My visit was quick and sobering after Palm Springs.
West of Salton City I drove up into Anza-Borrego State Park, but not before coming across an abandoned cabin in the middle of a salt flat. Inside these names were inscribed, just so, next to a gaping hole in a concrete wall. The names seemed like the premise for an awesome 80s ensemble movie about teenagers coming of age while riding ATVs across a bleached-out landscape.
Crossing Anza-Borrego was extraordinary. I went from a lunar landscape to lush desert landscapes, all in a zippy Mini Cooper. I stopped in Borrego Springs where I bought an unattractive straw hat and a date shake. That is, a milk shake flavored with dates. Now, I like a milkshake just as much as the next person — nay, much, much more — but I learned that dates do not a good milkshake make. You can’t blend a date. It just turns into chewy smaller bits of date that are emulsified with the ice cream. Unlike bananas or strawberries, say, which lend themselves to being puréed, a date just adds weird texture. Verdict? Blech.
On the other side of the Anza-Borrego desert, Route 78 spat me out into an alpine-like wonderland: the Volcan Mountain Preserve. Basically gorgeous pine trees and lush green fields and grazing cows and fruit pies for sale in a town called Julian. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such dramatically different landscapes in such short order. The drive from Salton City probably took 2 or 3 hours and I felt like I’d gone from Return of the Jedi to The Sound of Music, with maybe Raising Arizona in the middle.
I recently drove up to Connecticut to do some leaf-peeping (always sounds dirty, I know). And in the midst of amazing fall foliage, I stopped at United House Wrecking in Stamford. The store relegated all non-Western decor into one area, squished between salvaged doors and botanical prints. It’s there that I found this INSANE panel. It was probably three feet by three feet and had it not been incredibly expensive I would have bought it. (Actually probably not.)
I came up with this mood board to figure out how one might conceivably put a screen like this in a home:
What do you think? A little bit American Psycho, a little Insane Clown Posse, a little mid-century bohemian. Still insane? Yes, yes indeed.