Today I’d like to say thank you to all of the folks who backed my kickstarter project that started back in the summer. The idea for this project had been cooking for a while–I guess its roots go back to the summer of 2009, when I taught for Duke TIP first at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, and then in San Antonio, Texas. While teaching creative writing classes there, I was looking for places to take students to get them inspired, and get them out of the classroom. I stumbled on the Jingu Tea Garden in San Antonio, and thought, “hey, this’ll be a cool place to sit outside, see some flora and fauna, and write about nature.” But then I learned the history of the place–a true story of transformation, darkness and redemption, and that garden and its story stayed with me for years.
Then we went to the Southwest School of Art, where my friends Beck and Sonja did some demos for the kids that rocked their little worlds and brought the magic of materiality back to their writing. And then I stepped inside the museum on campus and learned the story of the thirteen Texas ladies of the Conservation Society who fought so hard to save the school that had done so much for so many, and their story stayed with me, too.
And as I heard of more places that had similar stories, the collector in me took over. I wanted to find enough places to fill a book. I wanted more stories of transformation, preservation, and rebirth. For me, these sites are inspiring because they not only preserve their own history, but they have been adapted in a way that allows them to be relevant and meaningful today. These places that hold such great historical significance are significant for other reasons today–they benefit their communities through education, art programs, and other acts of service. They preserve decades of changing culture, creating layers of stories made of transformation, innovation, conflict, and redemption.
This is particularly moving to me now, as so many old buildings are being razed to make room for the new. A friend and I were just talking about how we prefer old houses to new–I’ll take a creaky old house over a new modular one any day. I love the worn stairs, the hand-carved crown molding, the leaning chimney. I prefer a place that is full of stories from the lives lived there, shaped by characters that came before me, strong enough to survive the ones that come after. So I’m a sucker for places that escaped demolition and “progress” and were reborn in ways that allow them to serve their communities and not simply exist as empty shells on a museum tour.
It turns out that the travel and research was the easy part of this trip. Little did I know I’d be printing this book in time of great upheaval–in the throes of my own transformation. There was much experimenting, and too many setbacks to count, but now the project is finished. “Not Just Another Roadside Attraction” (and yes, with apologies to Tom Robbins) was made with pressure prints, photopolymer, and old metal type. It documents eight of the sites I visited, from Texas to Colorado. I was shooting for an edition size of 30, but made fewer mistakes than I expected, leaving me with 33. Coincidentally, I was 33 when I made this trip.
The 12 x 14 print (another reward for backers) is a 4-color woodcut reduction. The postcards are combinations of woodcut and linocut. This is my first project completed in my new home in Iowa.
So thank you, backers, for sending me through my own transformation.
Special thanks to:
Sonja and Jon Rossow
Steve and Cheryl Greentree
Keri Smith Esguia
Cathy and Doug Faulkenberry
Imogene and Eugene Blackmon
Sybil and Archie Neal
Leah Dean Thomas