Tour New Topographics with Kim Stringfellow

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

One Response to Tour New Topographics with Kim Stringfellow

  1. peg(O) Gooday says:

    Dear Kim,

    After hearing your brief presentation on ‘New Topographics’, I am even more sad to have not attended your tour at LACMA. I am fascinated by this subject in all art media, but photography seems to lend to the language or “vernacular”, as I interpreted your saying, with the most potency. I recently read a photojournalistic/graphic arts-whaddayacallitz about Uzbekistan, her people, the new reliance on mining through a haze of radioactivity, and foremost, the desolation of these outposts of workers and their families. If the photography had not been present with the article, I would have possibly forgotten the story. But, this type of Topographic imagery digs even deeper, many times to a desolate region of our collective unconsciousness, and makes us stop and think “I am glad I am not THERE!”. The kicker, for me, is we ARE there in the underlying alienation so many of our souls are dancing around, afraid to take a good and hearty look within.

    Thank you so much for your insights. It came at so timely in my life, if there is such a thing as timeliness!

    Best, with respect
    peg(O) Gooday

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