California Elegies is a project in painting and film that is being developed over the next few years. It reflects on time (cinematic, geologic) and examines place (California from the north east Sierra Nevada south west to the coast).

The starting point for me was the film "Greed" (1924) by Erich von Stroheim, or what actually exists of it, since the director's original version and the film's negative were destroyed. Considered a lost masterpiece, I viewed a restored reconstruction of the film at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival, and the memory of that screening was the beginning of this project. Gold prospecting has played an important role in California's history: from the original Gold Rush of 1848 and the immigration that followed, to the physical and psychological transformations of the landscape, to its emergence in culture (Frank Norris' "McTeague," Stroheim's "Greed"). Often considered a barometer of human misery inasmuch as of wealth, gold is a story in today's world having reached a peak value, with new prospecting and mining booming, transforming dirt into gold. Another inspiration for me were the writings "Assembling California" by John McPhee of The New Yorker which investigate a geologic history of the landscape.

"California Elegies I" is the first of three parts. It uses material from "Greed" as the beginning for new sounds and images to follow. Watercolor shares with celluloid a transparency but also a time sensitivity, recording the traces of its history. In subsequent works, oil and (digital) film will also be used to trace a personal history through this material.

"Smoke (after Piranesi)" is a series of works based on the etchings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) which were exploring the various methods of ornamenting chimneypieces and all other parts of buildings taken from Egyptian, Etruscan, and Grecian architecture. I chose to focus on the smoke within these chimneypieces, incidental details that further explore ideas of ornamentation and alchemy.

December 2011