Friday, October 15, 2010

Rust and Roadsides: A Trip Through the American Dream

The Rust Belt Chic aesthetic is becoming more clearly defined. Three articles about the journey two artists (Joseph Paquet and John Cosby) are taking to capture the splendor of the Rust Belt that Levi's hopes will sell jeans. What they hope to find:

Both artists have their niche – Cosby is drawn to roadside Americana, Paquet to industry. By pooling their talents together on road trips to areas of the Rust Belt they hope to catch the remnants of the American Dream.

“There’s something beautiful about the authenticity of things,” Paquet said. Landscapes where people live right next to industry are fading, he said, as cities become more sanitized.

Again, we see the theme of authentic versus sanitized. It's like taking the common critique of suburbia and applying it to the urban boomtowns. The sense of place is wanting. More from the painters:

"You know, it's getting beat up by the weather, trying to find a place to paint where you're not standing in the middle of the road and every place has a character that's very unique," said Joe Paquet, an artist out of St. Paul, MN.

They plan to put together a traveling museum after spending three years creating memories that will last longer than the Rust Belt structures that inspired them.

"In a very short period of time they'll be gone so if I can get a record of this, that would be a pretty wonderful thin," said Paquet.

The Twin Ports is the first of several stops on their way to New York, but their stay has become longer than planned.

"So right here in this one spot we got everything we were really looking for across the rust belt all in one area with the old grain mills, the steel mills and the coal docks and the ships and the tugs and the people and the diners altogether," said John Cosby, an artist from California.

If you haven't guessed, the two are starting out in the Iron Range. A glimpse of a few of the subjects:

Joe Paquet set up his easel facing south, toward the now-defunct Globe Grain Elevator in Superior. He painted using industrial gray colors.

About 30 feet away, across a gravel drive, his partner in paint John Cosby had taken the northern view of this spot on the property that now belongs to Wisconsin Woodchuck, which is salvaging the elevator’s old wood. Cosby, who favors roadside scenes and visually busy spaces, was capturing buildings, a red truck, a crane and the Blatnik Bridge. ...

... They plan to spend a week and a half in the area, getting in about three paintings a day. On Thursday morning, Paquet painted a bar scene on Tower Avenue. He works sitting at a wood easel with the look of an old school desk. Cosby had painted the Winter Street Depot. He has a tripod, with a wooden palate where colors overlap each other. They work with oil paints.

Is this more ruin porn? Are the emotions that these landscapes elicit somehow debased? The more important question: Why are artists interested in these examples of blight and decay?

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