I remember as a young kid my two older brothers talking about girls; then realizing I had similar thoughts, but for boys.
I remember when a neighbor told my parents all gay people had aids.
I remember adults I admired treated homosexuality like it was a literal plague.
I remember trying to calculate every mannerism and word as to not give away my own secret.
I remember my first group of friends where I had no fear of being attacked or shunned.
I remember fighting with my brother when I found out the LDS church grouped gay people living together along with pedophiles and rapists.
I remember the apathy of loved ones stinging more than the explicit hate from strangers.
A lot of memories went into this painting; a lot of relics from my past. I feel like if I never touch on the subject again, this painting could stand as a monument to growing up as a gay mormon in Idaho. The good and the bad, the light and the dark, the pain and the hope all interacting and woven together.
There is no going back; and for that, I am grateful.
Most of my physical experiences were never represented in the popular entertainment our family consumed when I was a child. So whenever Idaho was mentioned or referenced, those few images were branded into my brain. I forever see Marilyn Monroe in River of No Return or wearing an Idaho potato sack dress.
These moments in pop culture made no effort to accurately describe Idaho. The state was just a prop. In the few references that exist, Idaho is usually a lawless territory or a potato farm. I see great reclamation potential in taking these cliche moments and flipping them around. E.g. making Marilyn Monroe a support and brief reference for Idaho, the River of No Return, or even Idaho's agriculture. The original focal point now becomes a brief, even obscure nod to Hollywood, the U.S. entertainment industry, and the actress herself. Marilyn is no longer represented by her body or facial features, but by her hair style in the film, River of No Return, and a potato plant blossom.
The intended audience is flipped as well. Instead of producing an image or movie intended for mass dissemination, the work is singular and hand painted. Idahoans now are the target audience. This is not to say I want to shut out all others from the artwork. Anyone can possibly enjoy Marilyn and the River of No Return but physical time spent within Idaho and the American West makes for a much richer appreciation and understanding of the work.
Every Spring Break my parents took my siblings and I to the Salmon River. The River was a constant in my childhood; and like many great things of an upbringing, under appreciated. I recall grabbing up blankets from my bed and spreading them out in the middle of the lawn in the Summer. I would close my eyes and pretend the blankets were a sleeping bag and the distant roar of the freeway was the roar of the River. Even now I muse about how even mild rapids could fill the river canyon with sound. It became the base and the norm in my ear, just like the soft but constant hum of cars on the freeway near my parents farm.
On the Salmon, Elk and Deer could be spotted daily, however finding good antler sheds was always a special experience. Back on the farm my dad set found antlers in the flower beds. Years in the sun and open air turned them chalky. Their white cracked tines rose up amongst the flowers not completely unlike the conditions in which they were found.
The flat ancient flood plain where my parents farm resides and the steep rocky canyon carved out of a granite batholith by the Salmon River contrast greatly. One land cradled and fostered life while the other seemed to want your skeleton for its collection.
Still though, when I think of the concept of home, I see my parents farm just outside of Idaho Falls, and the Salmon River.
How do I convey my experiences with all of my senses, not just eyesight. How do I stop my own projection in order to become a more perfect vessel for my surroundings to fill, then radiate out of me.
Rock formations rise above me like church steeples. Creeks crash down the mountains. Small tributaries fall into rivers, then sink into the porous igneous rock. The high summer sun sees all and sears bare skin. Immigrant Pioneers brought immigrant Deseret to the High Desert. Soon they sold out to a capitalistic culture. The divine fell away and monuments to money rose.
I look to reject their mutilated ideology. I look to discover true harmony with my environment. I see the beginning to this adventure in the bones of the animals which once roamed Idaho, expressionistic representations of the landscape, and bold geometric design based off of naturally occurring forms.
The Boise River Green Belt is an integral part of my time living here in The City of Boise. A portion of my daily commute goes through the Green Belt when I ride my bike, and my favorite rides are west, towards Quinn's Pond or East towards Barber Park. Floating the river during the summer is becoming a tradition and my favorite park, the Idaho Fish and Game MK Nature Center is also situated along the Green Belt. I go to the Green Belt when I want to forget I live in a city.
I believe the spirit of the Green Belt could be taken further with public art work (sculpture) whose physical presence re iterates the contemplative nature of the Green Belt. I would place the work in between the walking path and the river bank so pedestrians, cyclists, and river floaters have a possible vantage point. I would aim to create a space for meditation and contemplation as well as a visual marker to initiate introspective thought. The sculpture would be visually reminiscent of a stone circle or a henge from the British Isles.
A deep foundation, like quasi roots, would help against the dangers of washing out from high waters during the spring. The sculpture would be made out of reinforced concrete to counter the effects of the elements and vandalism.
I really do think the Green Belt is one of the best parts of living here and I would love to take the experience even further with public artwork deployed along the banks of the river. Many distractions of city life are stripped away on the Greenbelt. People have a chance to breath, contemplate, and notice subtlety which would otherwise be overlooked.
I love hiking around Jump Creek, along with the rest of the Owyhees. A quick drive from Nampa the Jump Creek Canyon rim is dry with rock outcroppings and scattered sage brush. Rock Doves and Crows roost amongst the spires and their calls echo throughout the canyon. Once you've dropped down, you enter a vein of green running along the sides of the small creek. You go from a hot, dry-as-a-bone desert to a sliver of shade, filled with trees, tall grasses, and wild flowers. Along the creek's edge quarter-sized spiders feed upon freshly hatched insects. Deer tracks can be seen in the damp soil along with pieces of Crawfish shells.. The lush creek bottom holds a stark contrast to the dry surroundings.
There is some other quality to Jump Creek Canyon I cannot accurately describe, though its the reason why I keep coming back. I'd try to describe it as similar to the viewing of other great landscapes. My consciousness is beamed to every point and every point is beamed back into me; then the wind hits my face and I fall into everything.
I woke up to my alarm at 4 and dressed in the clothes I set outside my closet the night before. As I collected snacks and drinks from the fridge Octavia pulled up. We took our supplies out to her car and hit the road.
We were on our way to the Boise National Forest to view the eclipse whose path of totality cut right across Idaho.
The stars were still out as we turned of the main interstate to take the highway into the mountains. We reached Mores Creek Summit trailhead just as night was breaking and a cool light was beginning to illuminate the tree covered hills.
We set off up the old logging road with just enough daylight to see the path. We reached the summit just before the sun peaked above the Sawtooth Mountains to the east.
Around 10 the eclipse began. The sun became cooler and the wind began to stir. It wasn't until just before totality the sunlight became noticeably dimmer. I can't describe in words how the the eclipse made me feel or what it was like to look up and see a dark round disc with a brilliant halo. Crickets began to chirp; and the mountains all around us were cast in the colors of the sunset while we were in a blue I've never experienced; like the light was an essence of cold hard steel. It felt as if the very concept of life would become petrified.
The Eclipse was over in an instant. The light changed back rapidly and the crickets died down as the birds picked back up. We walked down the steep grade and passed the thousands of crescent suns on the ground made by the remnants of the ending eclipse.
I'm applying to the Bauhaus Residency in Dessau Germany and I thought I'd share the written portion of the application.
The Mountains and High Plains of Idaho are a far stretch from Dessau, Germany. I grew up on a small farm near extinct volcanoes just on the border of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. My foundations are inextricably linked to the land where I grew up. Rural Idaho is where the past lingers and the future stays just beyond the horizon, where Modernism and Postmodernism ran course side-by-side.
Idaho towns feel old, but not classic; new but not cutting edge. A set of contradictions give our cities a sense of urban planned purgatory. The relatively untouched wilderness of Idaho has given me my foundation. The true great human endeavors of this state have been when people look to the land for direction.
I look to mine within the natural world, without physical reduction, for the purpose of human progression. I look to dive into religious beliefs of the people around me and myself. My work began as a mimicry of the natural world and religious icons but now they are independent natural, and religious objects in their own right.
Seth Emrynt, Bauhaus Proposal:
My time at the Bauhaus residency would be spent by following a method very similar to a project I completed here in Idaho. I made works which represented significant aspects of my home: the Snake River Plain, central mountains, and southeastern volcanic features. I composed a set of design rules and then painted nine pieces which followed these parameters. Each finished work became an icon for the area from where I gleaned inspiration.
I would like to do something similar at the Bauhaus. I would look for possible paradigm shifts within objects of the area including: plants, animals, rock formations, water features, and man-made objects. I would look to isolate and recognise visually striking elements of the physical presence of the Bauhaus and Dessau, Germany and compose paintings which pay homage to what might be under-inspected by the newcomer or long time resident. I would compose a list of rules for the paintings to promote a cohesive body of final work. A goal would be to create works where the viewer familiar with the area and/or the Bauhaus would immediately recognise veins of familiarity in the painting with only abstract representation brought into existence from practices of the Idaho landscape tradition.
The first few days spent at the residency would mostly consist of documentation and the compilation of information gathered by physically exploring the area and specific sites where watershed moments took place. After the first three to four days my focus would transition to hashing out the design rules for the final works and then subsequently painting them.
I expect to make four to six 9”x12” watercolor paintings along with numerous photographs and a handful of landscape studies and sketches. I come from a western landscape tradition and I love the truth in plein air so the final body of work would include painted-on-location studies.
A showcase of my residency would include: pen and graphite sketches, watercolor plein air, photographs, found object, and the final watercolor paintings which culminated from my experience, and the set of rules I composed; I would consider these as an actual work to be included, and not just a guide.
In regard to the foundation’s topic of standards: first I think of artistic integrity standards. I think of rules and regulations set up by government and society. I also think of visual standards; not just a guide of written rules or non verbal understanding but a standard for the purpose of uniting people. A combination of homogeneity and individuality. I believe following a set of standards in art as well as in other parts of life can offer a greater platform for when one chooses to deviate. Like in my proposed project: I would compile a list of rules to give a consistent base and linking factor. These rules would then provide a chance for greater impact for the actual differences between each 9”x12” watercolor painting. Standards are often seen as restrictions or a damper on creativity; but they can also easily be recognized and seen as a framework, template, or puzzle to employ or solve. That’s what I’d like to do at the Bauhaus; solve the framework set into place by myself and outside forces in order to make new visual standards.
Some of my most pivotal and successful work was born out of restrictions and limitations on the creative process.
The Birth of Antlerhorn shown above: a painting born out of self imposed restrictions as well as physical limitations quickly became one of my favorite pieces precisely because of the road blocks I met along the way.
I began with a list of rules I wanted to follow:
I didn't want to start over again. I decided I would continue with the painting and tackle the the lack of richer areas and crisp edges at the end.
Once most of the painting was complete I turned to my pens. I used a felt tip pen on watercolor before but in The Birth of Antlerhorn I took it a couple steps further. Pen became the single biggest definer of edge and many values were taken significantly further. I saw stark contrast of the black line as a compliment to the rough edges of bone fragments and batholiths of Central Idaho. Instead of being a minor medium like in paintings before, pen became a major visual producer.
In the end, The Birth of Antlerhorn took on an uncommon look similar yet separate from anything I had completed before largely due to challenges I set for myself and others I met along the way. I'm almost positive it wouldn't be a pivotal work if I had checked my supplies more thoroughly.
Idaho is so often defined by its borders with other states. In the Southeast, Idaho Falls is a gateway to Yellowstone and the Tetons which primarily lie in Wyoming. The southeastern part of the state is also culturally linked to Salt Lake City due to the I-15 corridor and the high mormon population. The Southwest shares the Owyhee Canyonlands with Nevada and Oregon, While the Northern Pandhandle Is connected by metro-population and biome to Washington and Montana.
Idaho is Pacific Northwest obviously in the north where large conifers abound, but also through the arid ecosystems of the Owyhees and Snake River Plain which greatly mirror Eastern Washington and Oregon. The Volcanic activity of the Cascade range is complimented by the volcanic activity of the Yellowstone Hotspot footprint and the Snake river drains much of Idaho which flows into the Columbia making Lewiston the farthest inland port on that river system.
Idaho is also Intermountain West. Many of its mountain chains continue on into Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. Much of the Eastern population is connected to other Intermountain cities, Like SLC or Jackson Hole; and some of Idaho's rivers drain into Utah.
Now I would argue Idaho is also the Southwest. When formulating regions, the settlement and relation of populations is important. Southern Idaho's indigenous people speak Uto-Aztecan languages which dominate the Southwest. The rock formation and erosion patterns of the Owyhees and the Snake River Canyon are complimentary to rock formations further south. The Snake River Plain is the northern part of the Great Basin Desert which stretches down past Southern Utah and Nevada.
I see the borders to regions of the United States not like official markers on a map or a line which indicates a beginning and an end. Maybe a better comparison would be fingers interlocked or ripples in a pond interacting with one another having areas of concentration as well as areas of very light influence. In my mind and through my experience there is no doubt; Idaho is Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, and Southwest.