Here are some of my thoughts from the Can Art Save Cities? talk last night at the Ladies Literary Club.
Ever since I began making trips to Chicago I have always experienced a strong fascination with the large bleak tracks of industrial zones visible from the highway. I have always thought that it would be interesting to try to make art that would some how be a response to this haunting interest.
Last week Friday when Brenda and I were on our way with a couple friends to see the gallery openings in Chicago we opted to get off the usual highway path that puts us on the fastest route into the city and look for a way we could get out and explore some of those urban wasteland stretches. We found a place near a big Casino where we were able to park the car and go exploring with our cameras. The area we found was in East Chicago.
The housing that was there butted right up to these groupings of what looked like abandoned and tumble down industrial buildings. There was all kinds of dead cars and trucks, rusting steel, tires, old appliances and trash of all kinds just laying around in heaps. Many of the apartment buildings and houses had people living in them but then there were many obviously abandoned and uncared for. I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to live in an environment like that let alone raise a family there. It made me wonder how this had happened and where would this neighborhood go next?
One of the things that is interesting to me is how nature is still present in places like this. There are birds still building there nests and raccoons rummaging through garbage in the alley. There are willow trees inviting a new forest to take over the patches of open field and empty parking lots. This resilience of nature makes me feel hopeful for places like this. Are places like this poised for some kind of resurrection and beautiful new beginning or are they the portal for the great zombie apocalypse?