Prospective Home Sites is a solo photography exhibition by Flagstaff based artist Kerstin Dale. The exhibition will be featured in the Jewel gallery at the Coconino Center for the Arts September 18 through October 27, 2018, with a members’ preview reception Saturday, Sept 15 and a public reception Saturday, Sept 22.
By juxtaposing images representing development and images of pristine landscapes, this series explores issues of water scarcity amidst increasing demand, and the resulting human impact on the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. Over a period of years and dozens of trips through the Canyon, Dale placed wooden structures in absurd places—beautiful spots along the river, completely inaccessible to such development. Covering 278 miles of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, the series is meant to portray the pervasiveness of human impact by exaggerating the proximity of development. If the Colorado River is to supply water to 24 million people downstream, why not just erect homes right there on its banks?
Dale built the houses from leftover scraps in her woodshop, turning what could be seen as waste into something useful, another way to shed light on human impact—shrinking resources, increasing landfills, the need for repurposing materials. The structures, uniform in rudimentary shape and color, are reminiscent of Monopoly game pieces—houses and hotels—representing human hunger for ownership, an ever-encroaching civilization, and gross imposition on wild places. By using the mile indicators along the river as the title of each piece, she intend to further emphasize this encroachment, asking the viewer to imagine a home site here, and here, and here.
Kerstin Dale Artist Statement | Artist Website
I was 23 when I first traveled through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. I’d left college, uninspired and uncertain and without direction. Discovering the canyon was the equivalent of discovering myself. I woke up, fell in love with a river, fell in love with its work, and began what has become fifteen years of artistic inquiry and exploration into that landscape. It’s an understatement to say that first trip was life-altering. And every one since continues to shape me and shave me and mold me into the artist I have become.
I went back to college, this time with a purpose and the beginning of a vision. I earned a BFA, then an MFA, all the while continuing to develop my relationship with the Grand Canyon. Since then, I typically spend 100 days per year on the Colorado, in the canyon, rowing commercial trips for Oars and Grand Canyon Dories. When people comment, “It’s like your second home,” I tell them, “No, it’s my first home.” It is fundamental. All of my artistic drive, all of my insight and inquiry, comes from this source.
I’ve traveled all 278 miles of the Colorado River 78 times now. I met and married a man who pretty much grew up there—he has the canyon is his genetic makeup, the river running in his veins. His mother and father have been rafting the river since the seventies. His mother, my mother-in-law, remembers a time when you could run for miles and miles along the sandy banks of the Colorado River. Anyone who’s been recently knows that the campsites along the river are few, and they don’t go very deep, and you can’t run in any direction without landing in the water. The silt is all gone, flushed out. With the dam and the fluctuating flows, there’s nothing coming in to replace the disappearing beaches. We humans have decided to sacrifice the canyon, the river, beauty itself, so that water can be piped to Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and all the way to Los Angeles. So Colorado River water can come out of faucets in thousands of cities.
The river and the canyon, as individual and complementary works of art, drive my aesthetic. The issues around the control of the river inform my politics. All of the art I create is an expression of that aesthetic and an attempt to understand our collective ignorance and the resulting anguish.
While my training and much of my background is in photography, my particular inquiry takes me increasingly into other art forms, 3-D. Photographic imagery still lies at the foundation of my practice.