SoCal PhotoExchange

Detours of Life

Posted in Uncategorized by jeffalu on February 27, 2015

 

Self

Self Portrait, El Mirage Dry Lake, CA

 

An artist statement shouldn’t just sum up your intellect but also your emotions and feelings. Rather than summing your artistic beliefs up in a nice, neat little package, it should also talk about your weaknesses and your EXTREME beliefs, you know, the ones you’re too afraid to include in a “normal” artist statement.

One thing I’ve learned: A detour not taken is a world not explored. I’m not necessarily talking about a forced detour, I’m talking about all of the potential voluntary detours that we decide not to take because we’re so directly fixed upon our goals. It’s not always about the final piece of artwork, it’s about the life that you lead as you follow your path toward your artistic visions.

I once took a detour on a dry lake bed that led me into a saturated area which sucked my jeep right in. I Couldn’t move and it was getting dark. A lone house in the distance, who would I find there in the middle of the desert? Most likely crazy people. Nope, it was the elderly couple below who took me in for the night. I woke up early the next morning to dig the mud out from the front of my jeep and the elderly man used his tractor and a long piece of chain to finally pull my Jeep out.

 

hays

The Hays Family, who pulled my Jeep out of a “dry” lake bed.  I owe them the world.

 

That’s just one of the crazy incidents that have lead me to where I am today. Where that is, I can’t exactly say, but I can tell you that the road I have traveled on to get here has been a rocky one, though luckily the rocks have been relatively smooth.  I can say with confidence that I don’t have a single answer about this whole art thing, and I can only travel along having fun with it all, and seeing how things play out.  My own artist statement (below) was originally written to mock the classic, overly-intellectual artist statement.  However, after having lived with it for a few years, I realize that it has become to me a TRUE artist statement in that it expresses nothing about my art and everything about my life. Thank you for putting up with me here for the past month, it has been a wild ride!

 

Artist Statement:

Photography allows me to communicate the ways in which I see the world to others. Through it, I also discover new ways to see the world.

Personally, photography is an extension of some of my beliefs about life, such as the importance of constant searching. I’ve always been a seeker, and I always will be a seeker. What am I seeking? Answers to nagging questions on the meaning of life? Am I trying to collect heavy, provocative data so that I can form some kind of philosophical treaty in my mind about the workings of the world around me? Partially I suppose.

In fact, when I am out searching, I never have a set idea of what it is I’m looking for. I simply seek, occasionally finding exactly what it is I WASN’T seeking. For me, that’s the time I learn something new about life: When I discover a new path, a new way of seeing, a new reason for continuing my search.

Jeff-Alu-ReachII

“Outcrop”, El Mirage Dry Lake, CA

Certain things excite me: patterns and compositions which somehow come together to form a statement so complete and startling that they must be recognized; A knowledge that these patterns and compositions are ALWAYS present, everywhere; The hot sun, the barren desert, caffeine, loud music, wind blowing through my jeep as I drive very quickly, sometimes so quickly that I forget about my search. The Search? Maybe I don’t feel like searching just now, I think I’d rather kick back and relax a little. Maybe I don’t want to be reminded about my search, the pressure of it, I think I’ll just drive and see where this road takes me. This wind, this heat, this music is taking me to a place where finally, I can stop thinking. I can literally become one with whatever it is I’m supposed to become one with, not worry about life, just look at the shapes, those simple shapes, the shadows, the brightness, the blowing dust, the loudness of the smell and taste of everything around me. I think I’ll just let the 4Dness of this sensational overflow of emotion move me along or I’ll move into everything and shut my brain down for a while. Now, finally, I will be able to see.

I see a dry lakebed over there. Can I get to it somehow? Why would I want to, there’s nothing over there. Just a flat surface, what could possibly be worth looking at over there? And getting over there is going to be a hassle, no roads to lead me into it. Well, there is a small dirt road, but it’s full of rocks and brush. I can’t even be sure it leads to the lakebed, probably instead to some abandoned and completely uninteresting old house set up by a person crazy enough to have wanted to live in such an uninteresting spot on the earth.

But I take the road because it is the only road that leads to the area that I, for whatever reason, feel the need to explore. The road is rough, like life is rough, and I feel it, finally.

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“Embedded”, El Mirage Dry Lake, CA

The feeling I have as I drive along is great, one I love, one I experience only when I drive along here, in this type of terrain, or maybe when I try to imagine what it’s like to be here. I’m empty of emotion, yet quite satisfied. Maybe “empty of emotion” is not the best way to describe the feeling. “Empty” is the word, but not empty in the sense of feeling nothing. I feel so much now, as I drive along. I guess “empty” in this case means I’m finally devoid of all the unnecessary thought patterns I normally have on a given day. Usually, those thoughts I have which clog my arteries are present, but now they are absent. Or I’m absent of them. Or I’ve pushed them away. Or the scenery has pushed them away. It is a time of extreme freedom.

I flow. That’s a good way to describe it. Sure, the scenery flows by. My Jeep flows down the road. I flow past fences and rocks and bushes. So yeah, I flow along. But no, what I mean is *I* flow. ME. I flow through life as I move along, like I’m moving through it at an accelerated rate, without obstacles. Like I’m moving through a different world. A new planet. A new solar system. A different galaxy. No, it’s more than that. This is not just a new world. This is a totally different life. Not mine, a totally new state of being. A new existence. A place I hope to be, a place I’m glad I’ve found. That’s where I am now, in the desert.

So, what is it about this place? The absence of complexity, I think. Yeah, that’s what I mean. See, the desert is nothing but geography. Elevation with a thin skin. Nothing to obscure what’s real. Nothing to hide. “Nothing worth hiding”, I suppose some would say. Topography, something to navigate. A challenge of sorts, “can you make it through this harsh, barren wasteland”, to be cliche. No peach fuzz. Naked, neked, nonfat. Nothing to hide behind, nothing to lean against, no place to go to ask for advice. No fluff, no exaggerations, no timelines. Fractalization. Oh yeah, that’s a big one. Lots of Fractalization.

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“Tower”, El Mirage Dry Lake, CA

Fractalization. What the hell is that? That’s the biggest word on this page so far. Fun to say, too. Makes me sound important. I say it as I move along through paradise, “Fractalization!”. Paradise plus intellect equals ultimate high. Like I think I know what I’m talking about. Like I think I actually have the ability to express my ecstasy in large, fun-to-say words.

Ecstasy and intellect come in many forms. I really need to stop and take a pee. It’s adding up, the coffee. I’m on my 2nd “cup”, the 2nd of those large 16 OZers. The first one I got from home, the second, I picked up along the way. “I gotta pee me, I gotta pee me.” I pull over. I get out. I’m nowhere, so I need not worry about being seen. I pull’er out, let’er rip. My mind veers towards intellectual domains. The more relieved I become, the deeper my thoughts enter into a new world. The sound of a good pee is music. Even the slight splattering on my bare legs is a signal of accomplishment. Basically, I feel real good. And to think I thought I felt real good before.

Back in my Jeep, I’m moving along, the caffeine pumping, and the road is rougher now than it was before. I need to slow down, which I do, but only the minimal amount necessary to keep from getting one of those flat tires. I’ve heard those can be bad; can ruin your whole day. I don’t want anything to ruin any part of my day, and I’m sure nothing will, I’m an artist after all, and art has its way of breaking through in spite of the barriers which try to break it down.

The road up ahead is still rocky and I feel the rockiness pass under me and there are THOUSANDS of them and they fly by and I would count them if I thought I had a chance of keeping up with them and isn’t it odd how with so much moving past me in such commanding quantity the lake bed has not changed at all in shape or size. Looking back I cannot see the paved road I came from, and I’m sure I’ve traveled at least a few miles on this rocky road, which means, judging from the not-so-changing shape and size of the lake bed, I will need to drive over a deeply humbling number of rocks before I reach final flatness. And eventually I will have to drive back on this same road in the opposite direction, my tires meeting the opposite sides of all these rocks which are slowly communicating to me a desperate need to be elsewhere, somewhere familiar, with a cold beer. I do have a spare, but it’s a spare after all and there’s only one.

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“Safe To Shore”, El Mirage Dry Lake, CA

But I have the sound which I love of the wind and the dirt which is filling my ears and calming me down. I belong here, the sound PROVES that. It’s a rough sound, like this road, and it is welcome and I feel like I’m accomplishing everything I’ve ever set out to accomplish here and now and the beauty of this place is all that matters and the new sound, the hissing sound, is there now too and I’m aware of it but not yet letting it into my conscious mind because I don’t want anything destroying the perfection around me and there’s the wind and the heat and then the hissing sound is there more than it was before, not taking over the rough sound, not at all, but rather entering into my flow of thoughts so that I can no longer deny its presence and the road is rougher than before and there’s all the beauty around me and I no longer travel in a straight line but in short little arcs and I feel and hear a rhythmic pulse coming from behind and yet I feel like I’m floating and the light is bright and the shadows are long and black and the hissing, now VERY loud and I know, finally I know as I feel the heat and a huge rush of adrenaline that I can no longer deny that I have to stop…

 

…which, reluctantly, I do…

 

…and I turn off the engine and it dies…

 

…and there is only silence. Except for the wind which is still blowing and when it dies there’s only the hiss and I really love the sound of the wind and I wish that it would never die.

 

 

So that’s me, I was moving towards flatness and now I’m flat. I have a spare but no water. And I ask myself why I love to go out searching in the desert on extremely hot days. Alone. And yes, I get the spare on, and it does the job it was created for, and I make it back home, and life goes on, and even though I took not one single photo on this trip since I was too busy enjoying life and not in the mood to search for anything, I found something I suppose, though I won’t know what it is until I get further down my timeline, so I’m not going to worry about it now. I’m just going to look forward to my next desert trip and there’s really not much more I can tell you.

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“Reach”, El Mirage Dry Lake, CA

Jeff Alu
http://www.jeffalu.com

 

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