Texas Symbol Anthology
A stand in for the self, plant-life with thorny exterior. From a distance they appear both vibrant and un-inviting. Succulent #1 may stand tall in the sun or droop in the rain, it's roots are planted firmly in the soil underneath.
On the outside its form is split, cuts from loses of a part of body / self have been patched, on top them sprouts anywhere from 1-3 new selfs. The scars of past stay, only as a reminder that things can continue to grow.
Inside this succulent is a soft watery interior, a collection of the years of raindrops, a collection of the floods. A liquid collection of time displayed only in the destruction and breakdown of the self.
Coffee cup #1
Cardboard or is it plastic? Hot to the touch with a sleeve protecting it. If you drink it you can stay up, walk beneath the stars with someone you care about. Work all night on paintings that you love.
In its natural environment, sitting beside you on a coffee table, notebooks thrown aside across the table, markings and plans for the future, the coffee cup is a powerful thing. Reminding you of all the nights spent planning and working for a better future reminding you of all the people around you drinking something with you. Planning and studying for a better day tomorrow.
Economics, history, culture, and love. They all go into the creation of a single cup. In the heat or condensation on the outside you can almost feel the accumulation of multiple generations.
Crushed Can #1
Aluminum on the outside, brightly colored and with various brand markings. This is but one variation of the many. Crushed beneath the cowboy boots of a woman on fourth of July, smells of grilled meat and charcoal in the air.
Inside a few drops of liquid, negates or amplifies the feelings of loss/excitement/grief/success.
Ink jet printing on paper folded, scenes of a city and aerial renditions of its transit system. Lines,bold in color connect important zones together. A concrete example of how a single line can connect points across culture.
The movement across and through a city is the result of its planning, both good and bad. The past (and sometimes present) creation of economically / racially separated zones and the attempt by the future to connect these zones again.
Every dotted point and its subsequent connection line shows a complex thinking and potentially an even more complex political argument. And across the globe these maps pop up . Reminding us of how we move around the cities we call home.
Marketing material turned informational turned political.
At the bottom of a river that I jump into for the first time is a stack of rocks. When I look up to the surface to come up for air beams of light shoot through towards me. The first breath of hot air fills my lungs.
A family friend gives me a set of coins for graduation. A marker of the time passed and a marker of commerce. Heavier than normal with a ridged edge, made from the same material as a block that sits at home in a family safe. Given by a grandmother with love. Both are markers of stories, of friends and family and caring. Of the act of simple compassion that can be given in a very small moment.
In my pocket I feel the ridges and turn it around in my hand, each time I turn it the anxiety and panic subsides a little bit. In the weight I feel the weight of my grandmothers hands against me, the weight of a pat on the back for a "good job" by a professor or family friend.
Unseen actions from a culture characterized by the phrase "southern hospitality."
Shriveled from the heat, a stand in for any number of "New Birth" metaphors, fruit of wombs, life giving, eggs, fertility, etc.. Birth on birth on birth.
These spring to life in the summer, surrounded by overflowing greens. They droop a bit to one side or another, and a few fall to the ground and shrivel up. There is a raw energy in the berries as they sway in the wind. Stopping for a closer look shows bees, beetles, and Ants climbing across the surfaces.
When you draw them on a bus people ask "What's that"
The original creation of the Lonestar is beyond me, Or rather its complete history that isn't explained through brief mentions on sites. In most of these instances the lonestar is talked about in relation to it's independence from Mexico. I understand the lonestar on different terms, and in fact my surrounding of it comes with tacky metal decor and over saturation from coffee cups and sweatpants, T-shirts at buc-ees, and many other list. (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Star) . Generally speaking Texas can be divided up into 5 parts ( most often I would say 4) IE cardinal directions + Central (whatever the hell that is). The symbol as a representation of the unity of these separate parts is the most interesting to me. West Texas is unbelievably different than East Texas, And yet driving through those towns on a road trip feels like i'm driving through any other town. The 5 pointed star and its reference towards unity seems to capture this feeling to me.
The tackiness of a lonestar is something else, walking through each neighborhood or home goods store and seeing a symbol plastered over and over again on every piece of material lessens the symbols importance. However it makes it interesting to drive through a tiny west texas town and see a metal star in the same location as the metal one in your mother's yard. Driving home with a 5 pointed sheriff's star attached to my overhead mirror is a classic memory in my mind, pulling the top of a beer bottle off with the star bottle opener at my parent's bay house. Drinking a lonestar with my older brother during a hot summers day. In all of these scenarios the Lonestar appears somewhere in the background attached to some consumerist object that will be thrown away.
I wonder if there is something more in this, hundreds and thousands of stars populating the world we live in. being thrown away and recycled. Yet none of these staying permanent, all of them being born and extinguished a large amount of them living their lives as lonely symbols. The loneliness of an overpopulated "Lonestar" might be a little too much of a thing for me. I wonder though, if we all feel that way in Texas, like we are separate people who don't exactly fit in, not country enough, not strong enough, not big enough, not cool enough, not stable enough, not thoughtful enough. I wonder if the lonestar refers to this feeling we all have, of being so close to the people we love, so close as a culture but yet so far at the same time.
I ask my dad as we are leaving a funeral if he ever thought of moving somewhere else, and why he chose to live in Texas. He said something along the lines of "I traveled a lot of places, and you know I really enjoyed it it was fun and I really liked some of those places.. But you know it was just always home."
I wonder if that's how other people feel when they travel hundreds of miles away, when they are looking through a store in some town far away from where they grew up and they see that Lone star staring back at them. I wonder if the symbol is something that can only be appreciated if its namesake is met. Far away from the collection of other lonestars it holds more importance.
Alongside a building in no particular part of town grows a collection of plants that may or may not contain moss of some sort or another. The limestone bricks contrast heavily against the bright green and shrubbery. In the spring plant life springs up budding and filling the empty space with beautiful whites and purples and blues.
Every day the same 5-10 people ride the bus with me, and these same 5-10 people must pass by this bit of hanging plant life every day. Sometimes on a bad day you can catch them smiling out of the corner of their mouth as they pass. Sometimes you can see them linger a bit closer. Sometimes they ignore it.
How many times has a day been impacted by a bit of growing plant life alongside a building in no particular part of town in one part of a giant state, in one part of a giant country, in one part of a giant world?
Rock # 2
I climb up a ledge of a cliff. Position myself on top of the rock and run to the edge. I plunge into the water and the shock of cold hits me against the Texas heat.
In the distance we can hear a plunge and shout of another group who hit the water, the popping of beer cans and shuffle of feet against rocks. Music and the strong smell of weed and cigarettes.
Sitting there in the moment I take in the colors of the rocks, the plant life growing, the tree that the rope hangs from that the group of 20 years olds swings off of. I wonder if these rocks and this experience makes my character more than the lonestar cans, texas junk , and memorabilia I own.
Flood Marshes #1
One of the first songs that I had on CD (which my friends all assure me is a crucial thing to write down) was Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughn. At that time I wasn't so interested in music to be honest, but I knew my older brother liked music and somehow or another I acquired this CD. Like most people I wanted to be close to my brother and in my own ways imitate him. I don't listen to SRV anymore, and if I had to pick a version I enjoyed more I would listen to Buddy Guy's. But the significance of SRV to Texas can't be understated. Not even as influential to music of Texas (I'm unqualified to speak on that) but strictly as a symbol.
In Austin recently the flood waters rose to the base of the SRV statue bringing with it a collection of twigs, sticks, and grasses.
Every Texan I talk to has a flood story, and the beginning of my childhood was noted by the stories of Indianola Texas and the 2 hurricanes that flooded the city. The result was a rather desolate bay town that we spent most of our summers running around. Personally I remember sleeping downstairs on the newly wooden floors with no power and AC, I remember the flood of people who came to the city after Katrina, I remember the flooding that ruined part of my grandmothers house and her subsequent move to live with us. I remember the floods that nearly reached to the first apartment I ever rented in Austin and the simple but re assuring text message from a now distant Ex "Heard about the flood, hope you are ok."
It seems odd that a place where 90 degree temperatures stretch well into october, that flood and water would be such a crucial cultural symbol. For me it's what the floods dredge up, the shifting of plant life and emotional life that occur as a result of an unpredictable and unstoppable force. The floods of Indianola surely shifted a population basis from one area to the next, and as a result played a part in the development of Galveston as a large seaport. Likewise the influx of people leaving from the devastating Katrina floods had an affect on the cultural makeup of several Texas cities. But it's also the symbolism of a flood that seems to me to be its real power in symbol making.
The idea of a powerful force shifting through the land, to the religious majority of Texans the floods have a powerful relationship with biblical teachings, The flood a symbol of both their gods wrath and hope for the truly faithful. For me the flood reminds me of days cleaning my grandmother's garage, watching her sneak a cigarette from the stress, knowing it would lead her to that hospital bed in Bellaire Houston. For me the Flood represents some unpredictable natural flow of things, a natural flow of destruction and reconstruction, that seems to occur throughout our lives.
The growing and subsequent recession of the water. In and Out, In and Out, Like the breathing on a machine that kept my dad's mom alive, or the rising and falling of my chest as I meditate outside under the sun. The leaving and returning of a teen then adult to and from their hometown. All of these moments of growth and regression seem to come together in the flood.
A marker for a home, or a marker for a end. Stone or granite, marble or bronze, brick or wooden post.
As a marker for home it welcomes and greets, allows your friends and family to find you, conveniently marks your location on a global map. If I type this number in on my phone it will show me the fastest way to get from where I am to where it is. I can speed down the highway going 80, I can cruise slowly in the night with someone sleeping behind me. As a marker for home even when crumbling it lightens the spirit.
As a marker for end it reminds of a universal truth. Signifies our past and those that have fallen before us. A crumbled stone remain in a family cemetery, a white cross in a field of many. A bronze plaque where your ancestors lay. If I type this number in my phone it won't spit back any useful information. It won't show me how to get from where I am to where it is.
Made up Image #1
A man in cowboy hat, bags under eyes with stress hanging on his shoulders. Or man in cowboy hat without bags without stress, clean shirt pressed and saved from a 80's collection.
Quiet and disillusioned, stern but loving, hip and loud, cool and aloof, mysterious and simple. All properties existing of the various representations of the image throughout time. Associated heavily with Texas but exist throughout the country, throughout cultures. Throughout nationalities and race.
My father held his hat as he moved across the bump in the road exciting the cart corral. He stops the cart and gets out his black hat slightly dusty. A medal that reads "captain" hangs from his vest and I notice in the light as he leads us inside a small mobile office. I wonder to my dad what the separation between cowboy and regular person is, and I doubt he's ever thought about this. To my dad cowboys are cowboys and he's not one. Yet as he holds his hat with one hand to prevent it from falling off I wonder if there is more cowboy in him then he knows.
Flood tree #2
Broken and knocked down. A shell of former self. leaves and grasses cling to the fallen branches, mold and rotting have started from the roots to the top. Rocks pushed against the frame hold it in place.
Along the base water runs. Puddles forming outside in the loose rocks around it, the flow of the river pushes the water against the tree in a knocking sound. In and Out, In and Out, ever so slightly moving and rushing. Small fish swim in the new expansion dispersing every time a drop of water or rock disturbs the stillness.
In the distance an identical tree sits on the bank of the river. A young boy crawls up and down its trunk. Up and Down slightly moving up and around. A noise from a parent and he disperses.
Sand Dune #1
When I'm driving down the road out of New Mexico the inside of my car is covered in sand and the back smells like soiled and soured towels from the rain storm we had just run out of. We drove down a mountain towards a desert from the coldness of rain and wind to the warm sands of a national landmark. Spending the day there taking pictures and filling up SD cards with pictures of sand and kids racing up and down hills. Brightest whites and bluest blues.
It's hard at that moment to think about the work that was waiting, or the dozens of years that I had yet to live and will live. Something about driving along a road that slowly turns to sand around you took all of the thought out of the world. And now I write it several months after the fact and can't recall the right words to describe it.
Remarkable to me was the sands natural ability to compact itself and conform to the designs of everyone around it seems like a metaphor that maybe hits a little close to home. But the natural effect of it returning to its original state after influence of the outside world seems just as apt.
Sometimes when i'm feeling down or trying to think of the purpose of fights and stress, of angry politics and even angrier fights. When i'm thinking of all the shitty things i've done and all the good things and trying to put some purpose behind it I think of this sand dune, or think of the sand at that beach. The combination of every tiny particle to make something better and bigger and the subsequent destruction of that by the simplest forces. I think of the mandalas and circles of repetition.
A small metal box with knobs on the front that seem to turn. I'm not sure what the purpose is but it seems to display the numbers of the bus. Every day the first thing I see is the boxed numbers illuminated down the street. and in the corner is a small unassuming box that creates this.
The first city buses I ever took were when I moved from my town to college. And I remember very clearly the pit of nerves that ran through my entire body as I rode into a very new place with very little support structure. the only thing for me that was concrete, the only thing that stayed stable and reliable was the bus numbers coming in the distance. Each day something new would come, new people new judgments un familiar surroundings. But the bus came on time and I knew how to rely on it.
The second round of buses I took was to Houston, riding back to meet an old friend in a house long gone. and again while the nerves ran through my body and that familiar feeling of nausea and sickness at the unknown and unfamiliar crossed over me I looked for the numbers. The small metal box, or LCD screen on the bus, or the numbers painted on the side of a curb where I had stood many times before.
Now every morning the numbers come towards me from a distance, every day at 7:45 I see the metal box, or LCD screen.
I wonder how important these numbers are to establishing our relationship with the people and places around us. I know my address, and my parents address, I know my girlfriends address and even the numbers that begin her license plate from one to many times watching her drive up. I know the numbers on the buses I take and the stop ID's associated with the places i've spent most of my waiting at. The numbers in my bank account that fill me with so much dread.
I wonder what numbers and their association have to do with who we are as a people? Voting blocks and percentages, red and blue, progressive and conservative, everything broken down into percentages and constant number blocks. electoral colleges and popular votes.