Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Past comes close to Home

Preparing my own work for a couple of shows has kept me busy lately - good work, good shows, but it's kept me from writing here. To catch up, I'll start with the past. Ruins of late great civilizations are everywhere. Romantic artists and poets loved ruined abbeys, dismantled temples of Ancient Rome, columns and half walls sticking up through the sand or vines for evocative soul-stirring associations with shunted human ambition and poignant death. Shakespeare's 73rd sonnet calls to mind the same tug of romance and futility with an architectural metaphor.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang

But all these ruins are elsewhere, right? Europe, Rome, Sicily, Africa, Central and South America: the closest we here in the US come is the Southwest, with the spectacular cliff houses of the Anasazi? Today, though, thanks to Yahoo and several intrepid photographers with an eye for unusual beauty, the US enters the Pantheon of great ruins. Here, via the link below, is a look at ruins all too close to home. These poignant photos tell of an America that we can now only know from books and our grandparents' stories, of thriving industrial cities in the heartland, churning out vast quantities of widgets or whatever, building strong prosperous communities on an infrastructure of faith and thriving capitalism. It is a bit of a shock to see so clearly the evidence of a time and way of life that will never come again, but it is also a prompt to look ahead and not backwards for technologies and human achievement. Regretting the past is a dead end, if a searingly picturesque one. Click on this link to see the video - you don't want to miss this. Thanks to these photographers for seeing and sharing. They also have a Flickr page of still photos.