I choose to work in Texas because this is the last American psychological "frontier," and this is precisely what my work is about. I use the term "frontier" as it is falsely presented to us by Frederick Jackson Turner the early American historian. His notion of the frontier as a large expanse of land past the Mississippi open to the free exploration (and unthinkable exploitation) by individuals and this historical unfolding of events, namely that hard working Anglo-Americans moved across the American landscape in search of freedom and a better life, carving this reality out through blood, sweat and tears is in fact not accurate, as explained in great detail in the book "The End of the Myth" by Greg Gandlin. The author explains that the westward expansion of early American history was a highly calculated and orchestrated event brought to life almost exclusively by the efforts of the US government and its military and economic machinery. The people followed. This undermines the most fundamental concept of American "rugged individualism". The US was, in fact, built by big government, not strong willed individuals. Gandlin goes on to explain that the Turner mythology of the American "frontier" is, therefore, a fabricated mindset, a way of seeing the world defined by a distinctly Euro-American Anglo psyche obsessed with conquering new lands then extracting, enslaving, murdering, and ceaselessly demanding more for itself with no remorse, and, very importantly, without the help of government, as if men and women and children simply moved across the great Northern American territories claiming "freedom" through grit and hard work. As Gandlin explains so eloquently in his book, this is pure myth. I'll stop there. Read the book. My point is that this frontier psychology in its most contemporary mindset takes full stage here in Texas. One way or the other, Texas is where the tragedy ends. Texas is the culmination of all the extremes, the true and last stop on the proverbial American road trip. My work faces the unfolding of this horror head-on.
I have both political-artistic and personal reasons for moving back to Texas. In that order: Texas is ground zero for the failed state of the United States today. As an artist who makes work about that very subject, that's where I want to be. The coastal art centers, NY and LA, no longer, in my view, represent the real ethos of American society, they are not the heartbeats, so to speak, they are the periphery, bubbles of neo-liberalism and extreme gentrification in large part, and centers of finance, media and propaganda respectively. While those attributes of finance & media (NY) and propaganda (LA) are very important in understanding our society, they do not represent the actual psychological conflict of our society, the very real and total polarization of two world visions, one that holds multiculturalism - both in its truly progressive and its stunted neo-liberal modalities - as it's worldview and the other which holds ethnocentrism - outright white supremacy and racism - as its worldview. Texas is steeped in this conflict, from its more progressive large city centers to its rural ethnocentric enclaves. This deep divide is working its way out in the American culture, psyche and landscape most authentically and brutally in Texas, and that's where I need to be. Lastly, Texas is defined by its border and history with Mexico and presents the most complex and difficult cultural disagreements and failed policy towards immigration of any state, which is central to my work and investigation as an artist.
I choose to return with incredible motivation and purpose, something I cannot find in NY where I feel removed from the very purpose of my work. It is my singular mission to tell the ugly and true story of American empire from the perspective of endemic violence, a twisted, violent psychology and to do so from the place where it is so vividly expressed and open for all to see, unresolved, a powder keg of conflicting ideas and agendas at every turn and in every aspect of daily life. Texas, in my view, is what California once was, the last frontier, the embodiment of what comes next, good or bad.
I also have a very personal history with Texas having gone to graduate school there and having formed many of my artistic ideas and aesthetic there, as well as having lived there for nearly a decade. I found my footing as an artist driving around the desolate freeways of Texas photographing gas stations and strip malls and turning them into small lonely, empty, nearly minimalist oil paintings in graduate school. I found the real American story on those freeways of Texas; the story of blood, brutality, cruelty, capitalism gone mad, a vapid, endless landscape of strip malls and lonely souls, the “geography of nowhere” as it is called.
While I love NYC and will miss many things about it, this is not where my work belongs; it’s not my authentic journey into the American mind, the American empire, the great American lie and all its many social ills. I am on a mission to tell that story, to speak that truth, and that can only be found in my most authentic soil.
As Diego Rivera said:
“I know now that he who hopes to be universal in his art must plant in his own soil. Great art is like a tree, which grows in a particular place and has a trunk, leaves, blossoms, boughs, fruit, and roots of its own. The more native art is, the more it belongs to the entire world, because taste is rooted in nature.”
And so, I bid farewell to NYC and I move back to Texas, the most American of Americas, steeped in a culture of violence that to simply say the word “Texas” leaves the taste of blood in your mouth. I am heading to the frontline, so to speak, where my feet have their ground, "my own soil", where my heart finds its purpose, where I am called to make the most authentic and important work I can muster with these two hands directly "in the dirt" of it all.¡A la frontera!