Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mapping Three Walks

In my current class for the UF master in art education program we exploring maps, their symbolism, there historic significance, and there possibility to become a catalyst for conceptual artwork.
The assignment study our neighborhood and talk several walks to observe our environments first hand. Write about, think it all over end up with symbolic maps based on our findings. The first of which is this first illustration, focused on texture, how far can you go with the map idea?
Texture map 1 From prickly cactus to granite and adobe, I have a wide range of textures in my midst, I tried to focus on them.

Mapping Three Walks (by Senses)
First, though author John R. Stilgoe states that “Outside Lies Magic,’ I can tell you at this time of year in Arizona outside lies suffering. The winter months in the state are temperate, freezing weather is rare, snow even rarer. But now I am at the end of the blistering brutal months of 100 degree plus temperature even as high as 120. So to relate my experience with walking, you have to first imagine yourself in a bake oven, that dry intense heat of a furnace or kiln. Despite this I do make three small walks regularly and when the weather is better or reasonable at least, a few short bike rides. In fact my wife and I often ride our bikes to work and to a local crepe and coffee shop. We decided on this area of Phoenix to not need to commute and for all of its many biking trails.
It is strangely ironic even tragic that a white person would name a town on stolen Gila indian land with a Crow word. It seems merely part of the sad nature of contact on this continent that settlers of European descent would slaughter starve or relocate millions of folks and then name a street, create a caricature mascot, or in my case name an “urban village” after them.
For those that might not know, anything Crow in this part of the world would be wildly out of place. None the less we are called Tukee’s as is the local corner bar and newspaper. The word is omnipresent in the village on every shopping center or business.
Following Ira Glass’s example I have decided to focus on my senses and map the three walks based on their dominant sense.
textures.jpgMap of textures 2

Walk One, Getting the Mail. (Sight)
One of the short walks I make every other day or so is to the small mail box enclosure. For some unknown reason my mailbox is on the other side of the complex, though there is a mailbox temple right next to my unit. The apartment complex I live in has a classical theme so there are columns, colonnades, tiny faux temples, all doric in nature.
One of these tiny temples is used to house a coke machine, another a shade area near the pool, and several house mailboxes. What the ancient Greeks would make of all this who knows.
The path to the mailbox temple is lined in over hanging trees palo verde, weeping willow, cottonwood, palm, and even a few pines. Many beautiful patterns are formed by the shadows of these trees. The sound of wind in their branches is often one of the highlights of my day. Tiny paths meander through the buildings, past parking spaces, tiny charcoal grills, fragrant flowering plants, and the pool area.
pool copy.jpg

from my apartment to the mail area
apartment_blinds.jpgfirst_glimpse.jpgfront_door.jpgstairs.jpgsteps.jpgwinding_paths.jpgstucco.jpggrill.jpgopen_area.jpgpath.jpgabstract form copy.jpg

Near the mailbox doric temple is a tiny circular park of sorts with two doric themed benches and some large granitic rocks. A sort of southwestern zen garden of rocks, stones, and cacti it is one of my favorite places in my complex.

Needing to find my way, enjoying the shade and shadows, light through the trees, and eventually unlock my mailbox are all visually important, meaning sight is the primary sense used.

Walk Two, Going to the Gym or Pool (Touch).
It starts with a coarse towel around my neck, then a hand on a metal guard rail
as I make my way down the steps into the blast of heat.
Passing between buildings I enter a kind of breezeway and am thankful for the brief, disorienting shade, dark and cool.
I open a small gate and feel the cool of misters on my skin near the pool. I reach for the door of the gym and pull on its metal latch.

As it swings open the thick cool of air conditioning and ceiling fans envelopes me. Sitting at a weight bench I grab a metal bar and pull on it numerous times until my muscles ache and strain. I repeat this process throughout the room my course towel covering each chair or bench. If I am by myself then I turn off the TVs in the room and have only the A/C and coke machine drone to listen to. If not I might be confronted with any manner of music from country to rap or the blare and drone of television. Finally I rest on the floor doing stomach exercises and notice the grit, tiny stones and sometimes cactus thorns scattered about. Occasionally I get pinched adjusting a machine or lifting dumbbells.
Clearly touch is the primary sense involved in the gym experience.

Walk Three, Arriba’s Smell, Taste, (Sound)
Arriba’s is across the street from my apartment complex and though I wanted to include it for the sense of taste as a restaurant, I found it was also a good smell and sound walk.
To complete all of these walks I wanted to wait for the weather to cool off. 104 was as cool as I was going to get before midnight.
No sooner had I finished my last walk and I had to run for cover a massive dust storm moved. Some of the trees I had just photographed were getting rock even snapping, as the weather warning went up and all were advised to stay for hours until it passed.

massive dust storm that rolled in taking with it the blue sky and numerous branches.

gate.jpggate_lock.jpgbehind an iron gate locks and automatic doors.

Walking to the gate of my complex I hear wind in the trees and palm fronds that hang about. Opening the gate there is slight whine of rusted metal hinges, it closes with a clicking sound. If one sits, outside for any length of time around the complex the sound of distant traffic is easily heard, a major highway I 10 is mere blocks from the complex to the east. On the other sides are 48th (W) and Chandler blvd (N). Behind to the south is a barren waste and the Gila River Nation or Huhugam Tribal lands.
Hitting the street near my complex the sound of moderate traffic is heard and is constant during the day.
prickly_pears copy.jpg desert_landscaping.jpg
prickly pear and spanish bayonet or yucca
pipe, saguaro, agave, and barrel cactus

Numerous cactus beds can be seen. Prickly pear fruit with their blood appearance, mesquite beans scattered everywhere and the familiar yellow flowers of the palo verde tree, cover walks and beds of rocks and sand. Giant saguaro, barrel, pipe, agave, prickly pear, and yucca cacti line the streets and flank buildings.
barrel cactus and palo verde

Arriving at Arriba’s a Mexican and New Mexican eatery the smell of oil, fire roasted chillies, and meat strikes your nose. Then the sound of two rocky fountains hits your ears and the chiming out of traditional mariachi music.

The sounds of a restaurant filter through as you approach the door, along with the sweet sugary cinnamon of churros. Flatware and glassware tinkle, plates and trays of food make their ceramic sounds and much needed glasses of water slosh as they are filled. Tacos and chips crunch, fajitas sizzle, and giant plastic menus close with a slap.
The shade and cool of the restaurant coupled with the fine mist emanating from the aforementioned rocky fountains, lends the feeling of being rescued from the brutal heat, the sense of an oasis perhaps. The hypnotic sound of the water, the healing feeling of cool water ingested and spraying on your skin, transport you in the way that warm fire does against the cold.


In the end I am not sure which sense is best represented as the taste of the food is secondary to the feeling and sensory confusion of the outdoor patio restaurant. The New Mexico and Navajo fare the place serves is salty, zesty and fire hot. As your nose waters and hair curls one is reminded that chillies were ancient pueblo medicine good for circulation and helping to lube your sinuses so abused in the dry weather. Meats come smokey with the taste of the same sacred mesquite you must continually walk over to get anywhere. Being the hatch green chili season the scent of them being fire roasted alongside full corn cobs, still covered in their husks and every manner of creature that ended up on the grill, fills the air drifting all the way to the rez.
Mesquite beans that cover numerous area

abstract form copy.jpgFound map

This abstract form I discovered walking seems a kind of map. It seems to perfectly symbolize the three primary elements I live around. The organic winding landscaping, the concrete of paths, parking spaces, and houses and fields of stone and rocks scattered about.
Summing up
My methodology was to simply pay attention while doing these routines, see what appeared important to me. Being that to go to all three of these places I use the same path I felt I needed to combine them. Textures, organic versus stucco and concrete, and classical imaginings struck me at first. I captured some of this and then after listening to the, “This American Life,” segment I tried to break the walks into sensory files of sort.
Returning (and sidestepping a dust storm by mere minutes) to these paths I thought of them in terms of sensory experience. The big surprise was the restaurant which was so perfectly attuned to the climate and has create such an atmosphere that it was much a sound, textural, and certainly scent based experience. Like the segment suggested, smelling is more than classifying it is associating odors with memories and experiences. As I walked past the charcoal grills in my complex I could smell them and thought immediately of cookouts pool parties etc. Likewise the smell of cut grass and pool chemicals evoked childhood and suburban summer by the pool, in Florida. So these associations can transport us and jar us from our current reality.

In this mode of thinking I create several maps.
The first was of free association to the areas I traveled to on my mail and gym walks.
map of free association.jpgIt is very literal though symbols for the associations are visible. Sacred grove a sort feminine or fertility shape and the pool something watery.
Second I tried to get more symbolic more visual
aaociation map.jpg Classical temples, yin and yang, Venus of Willendorf figure take the place of words.

Third I tried to create an image that was only symbols for the above ideas
pure symbol map.jpg

Lastly I went away from the topic and explored the idea of a map related to the residents of my complex and my association with them.
map of neighborly relations.jpg