This Sunday’s next artist-led tour of New Topographics will be given by multimedia artist and educator Kim Stringfellow. Kim just happens to specialize in guiding people through geographic space. Her research-driven art projects, which explore such historically fascinating landscapes as the Salton Sea and California’s I-5 corridor, are both edifying and engaging in her study of these areas that are so beautiful and horrible in their states of decay and misuse.
Kim’s latest project, Jackrabbit Homestead: Tracing the Small Tract Act in the Southern California Landscape 1938–2008, focuses on the strangely patriotic and ideologically sweet (but now mostly dilapidated) shacks that speckle the desert landscape of California’s Morongo Basin region near Joshua Tree National Park. These shacks are remnants of a mid-century phenomenon whereby the United States government deeded plots of land it found to be “useless” to any able-bodied American interested in leasing to own a five-acre spread of desert brush, rock, and sand on which to build whatever their heart desired—roads, water, and electricity not included. Kim weaves a grand tour of the “jackrabbit” homesteads via multiple avenues. The project’s website features stunning photography and a downloadable car audio tour with music and storytelling.
Edward Robinson, associate curator of photography, sat down with Kim to chat about how New Topographics has influenced her work as well as her contemporaries and influences such as the Center for Land Use Interpretation (whose multimedia presentations are included as part of LACMA’s exhibition) and photographer Richard Misrach.
Sarah Bay Williams, Ralph M. Parsons Fellow, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department