[(t)here: mapping memories] In the Fall of 2015, six months after I arrived in Spain, when I was working at La Escuela de Ceramica de la Moncloa, I would take the metro to Príncipe pio four days a week to get there. In that metro station there is a partial glass ceiling to let in diffused natural light. There were cracks and a couple of holes in the glass from objects being thrown down onto it from above. Everyday I would walk underneath them looking up as I learned how to live in this city and navigate its streets with topographical subway and street maps. This sight reminded me of the five years before moving to Madrid, where I had lived my life using topographical property line maps to navigate the property lines of the land that hosted the Appalachian Trail, bringing groups of fellow adventures to destinations unseen and unknown using only a map and a compass to guide us.
I then began to remember the years I had worked in New York in fashion, traversing through the city from hotel to the Piers, to showrooms all over the city, using the city map and knowledgeable taxi drivers to help guide or bring me to my destinations. This also reminded me of a few years later when I was a driver for a photographer and videographer. My job was driving them through mid-town and Central Park to help them capture their shots using GPS and the traffic road signs to navigate my way through the busy city.
This then made me recall driving back and forth from New Hampshire to Florida on I95, a grueling long-haul journey to do in one day + 2-hours. When I had a home in Port Charlotte and needed to go back to see them at the holidays and for special occasions. GPS and road signs, toll booths and coffee were my companions and helpmates. And before those long drives, I remembered the ones I would do all over Osaka prefecture, when I lived in Japan for five years teaching English. I was required to drive on foreign roads with the steering wheel on the right, and the flow of traffic direction on the left, using only topographical paper maps to find my way from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, classroom to classroom, student to student.
These past memories unfolded even further as I remembered a particular childhood trek, blazing our own trail through fields and woods, over stream, up hills and down valleys, taking this seemingly endless and directionless long walk with my grandfather and younger brother. I remembered how he had teased my brother and I when we asked “Are we (t)here yet?” chuckling to himself and smiling at our confusion. And I remembered how suddenly we had arrived at a corner property marker – a wooden stake with orange tape tied to it, waving like the tiny flag of a small nation, set into the ground. He explained to us what it was and why it was there before we left following him back through the woods to whence we came.
And then I recalled the moment, one of my first earliest strongest childhood memories, and the feeling that accompanied it. It was a strange feeling of realization, and wonder, at really seeing something very different and unusual, and thinking to myself “Something has changed.” … as I looked at neat tidy rows of the same pastel and white houses lining the two sides of the street before me. Each lawn and driveway, the same size and shape, cookiecutter. Beyond them were yellow fields of tall windswept grass laid out before the tall purple and blue mountains with white-tipped peaks in the distance, all framed by a blue sky full of sunshine and a few white clouds. I was two and a half years old.
These pieces represent a journey, an arrival and a departure and the trip voyage itself. They are about places that exist both physically and in my imagination. And represent various stages of learning, knowledge and growth that has occured, as well as a long and winding path that has led me to the flat I now live in, this neghborhood, this city, and this country … The realization springing from that very first childhood memory of how the chase and love of going to isolated mountain tops and remote locations began and why I seek to have those same feelings of wonder over and over again of I am somewhere different. These pieces are a kind of Warshak test that took me (t)here. I wonder … if they will take you (t)here, to your somewhere, too.
[Homage to Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda] was born in Madrid in 1827. He was an aristocrat who became a farmer, a harvester, a creator, a journalist, an industrialist, fostering agricultural crops with great skill and building manufacturers of the highest quality abroad. He wrote several books on politics and was an important figure in the social and economic life of Spain in the 2nd half of the 19th century.
In 1858, he founded the newspaper El Dia. For him, the serious, continuous and verified information of the citizen was fundamental, which he thought, could only be obtained from a free and responsible press in its educational function. He founded a winery in Rioja, in the same year named after his title, Marqués de Riscal.
He produced award-winning high-end Rioja wines which became the preferred wines of King Alfonso XII. He invented the gold wire netting cover to prevent counterfeiters from substituting theirs for his, since it was impossible to remove the netting without breaking it. Modern day bottles of Rioja carry this seal of authenticity but it is a much finer wire netting which serves primarily as decoration. The wines rivaled the most famous of France and England in quality, and surpassed them in affordability. The Marqués de Riscal wineries still produce wine today and his descendents are still involved in the business.
Camilo Hurtado was once a well-known person and everyone recognized his seal. But now he and his seal are forgotten in time. His gold seal of authenticity is no longer relevant. His creation is now remembered as a simple decoration of thin gold-colored wire.
Proving ownership and protecting authenticity are some of the key challenges for any creator. My mind began to think about how human beings throughout the ages have done so much to promote their individual selves and identify their ideas as their own original thoughts. We have developed stamps, stickers, seals, watermarks, signatures, etc. We have created so many ingenious ways of saying: this is me, this is mine, I am.
These pieces are a tribute and a wry laugh, a little joke, a pointed commentary on ownership, identity, originality, authenticity, and a memorial to a great man considered to be an important free-thinker.
I have no illusions that any shapes I make, especially classical ones on the pottery wheel, are new and have never before been seen or made. One of the reasons I avoid looking at what other people are making with clay for inspiration is to arrive at my own conclusions and the manifestation of them, on my own. Some say you need to look at what other people are doing for inspiration. I think looking at Nature, thinking about concepts and ideas, imagining them are the sources that most inspire me. And even if someone else and I are creating similar things, at least I will know that I arrived (t)here by my own imaginings, not the admiration of another’s. And I can only hope that my creations and ideas will not be forgotten, like Camilo Hurtado’s.
Homenaje a Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda & (t)here: mapping memories
Cuando: 1 – 30 Abril 2021
Dónde: Las Flores de la Vida, c/Infanta Mercedes, 59, 28020 Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Horas: De Lunes a viernes 10:30 a 14:30 y sábados 11 a 14