Before we made the move to the karoo, just over a year ago, I had been feeling increasingly claustrophobic living in a semi-detached house in the inner city of P.E. I hated waking to the sound of our neighbour clearing his throat each morning and having to be on high alert at all times due to the crime. I hated having to unlock 3 layers of gates and doors just to get into my own home, and not being able to walk around the neighbourhood without pepper spray in hand, due to all the muggings.
And it was becoming very evident in my art. Razor wire and palisades became images that appeared more often.
I began gathering images of the open road during our frequent journeys into the open spaces of our country. I had the idea of putting them together an exhibition called “Don’t Fence Me In.” It would have been a cry of anguish about the perception of living as prisoners in our own homes, and the need to escape.
But then our dream came true, and we escaped to the karoo. We live in a house with no burglar bars, and stroll down the road with our cameras, never giving a thought to being mugged, or having the house burgled while we are out. We even didn’t have much in the way of fences, until our friend Houdini the marauding porcupine made them a necessity again!
And so those images morphed from a cry for freedom, into a celebration. I painted several of them in the past year, expressing the joy of the open road and the sense of roaming free through these incredible landscapes.
Ironically, with weeks of lockdown stretching who-knows-how-long into our future, that same theme, “Don’t fence me in”, has again taken on some of its original angst, yet not in the same way. Now it is a little bit about the frustration of being made to stay home, bound by all sorts of rules, but it is also a positive thing, forcing the world to examine the crazy consumer-driven economy that has been destroying our very existence on this beautiful planet. We have learned, during lockdown, how much more appealing a simpler life can be. How easily we can do without all that STUFF we had somehow come to believe we actually needed. It is about a hope for the future, of again being free to travel the open roads, in a landscape less damaged by our constant quest for more and more.
So my latest work has come full circle, back to photography, and creating images that evoke a nostalgic feeling of the freedom of the open road, through magnificent landscapes.
The June Prince Albert Open Studios has been cancelled, but we (the collective of local artists who open our studios to the public twice a year) will be sharing our latest work online instead, so we hope you will take the time to join us, and watch some of our videos, as we share our spaces with you. Check out the action on Prince Albert Open Studios Facebook page.