The Newsletter / A Sense of Place

Sense of place is a fundamental need in the heart of all creatures. Whether we seek cultural place, ancestral place, or emotional place, every living being needs a space to call home. Home carries many meanings from the physical to the spiritual. Those forced from their homes by virtue of political unrest or unstable economic circumstances often turn to the wider world to help them rediscover sanctuary. Today, we watch as much of that world turns its back on those most in need of a sense of place. Art can explore these conditions in great depth and often uncover meaning that other mediums take for granted.

Sergio De La Torre uses the concept of sanctuary to inform much of his work. He takes on topics of police brutality, immigration, and life in the trenches of the global economy. His art expands sociopolitical topics and deconstructs them to represent those involved not as victims, but as participants in their own destiny within their given space. His documentary film, Maquilapolis (City of Factories) looks at the lives of those who toil in Tijuana factories manufacturing goods for the western commercial market. Their homes are physically dilapidated and yet they pursue rich lives within this place. De La Torre examines police brutality within California communities, inviting large scale collaboration among colleagues and among his students as a college professor.

Michael Jantzen takes a far more literal approach to the concept of place and sanctuary. Raised on a 50-acre country resort, Jantzen began teaching himself to build at a young age creating useful structures for his family’s business. Today he uses architecture to portray his artistic message as is the case in one photos series in which he digitally deconstructs homes and churches to destabilize something typically thought of as solid. Jantzen gravitates toward sustainable design for his larger pieces and considers ways in which alternative energy can be cohesively integrated into architecture.

Reading can be one way to discover a sense of place, an intellectual home, or simply a feeling of emotional sanctuary. What are you reading to help re-center in these destabilizing times? Add your titles to our reading list. User Marie-Louise Hafner has picked up “The Labyrinth of Solitude” by Octavio Paz who writes, “Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another.” Meanwhile, Andrew Carnie has been reading “The Man Who Made Things out of Trees” by Robert Penn.

The Grant Wood Art Colony presently has an open call for their Painting, Printmaking, and Performance Fellowship. This is a one year post-MFA/Doctoral fellowship during which each participant will teach two courses as well as pursuing personal work and research.

What is your sense of place, your sanctuary? Where is your home? Perhaps it isn’t a physical space at all. For many, home travels with them no matter where they go. Wherever you call home, may it bring you peace and joy.

Here, as ever, are the interview archive and resources. Interviews are available as podcasts, for Android please click here

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