2023.37 : Homelessness - Art Gallery

Silicon Valley, U.S.A. Circa 2023

Man cannot do without beauty, and this is what our era pretends to want to disregard.

— Albert Camus

In last week’s photo essay, the part that upset me the most was the tagging of that person’s home. All week, I reflected on why the act of tagging upset me so deeply.

I have a list of non-negotiable criteria I hold myself and others to. Most important is gratitude. Those who, at a base level, aren’t grateful, I will avoid. Second in importance is a dedication to bring beauty into the world however it manifests itself.

The debauched soul that defiled another soul’s shelter with spray paint violated the latter in such a cruel, craven, unimaginative outburst of ugliness. Hundreds drive by to have their souls stained by the ugliness he brought into the world.

Now, let’s put all that behind us and celebrate beauty this week.

I am happy to share with you what many more thousands drove by, leaving the discerning with smiles and warmed souls. An art gallery along the shoulder of a busy highway. Hidden by weeds reaching 8 feet high at the base of massive trees. Out of sight of most drivers because the gallery was on a curve. The majority of the gallery attendees were in the passenger seat, catching but a glimpse.

I don’t exaggerate when I say the beauty of the Mona Lisa, Nighthawks, Cottonwoods, and David overwhelmed all my senses, transforming my soul. It is also no exaggeration that this highway art gallery filled me with the most joy, more than any of the great galleries I have been to.

The person, the artist, and simultaneously the exhibitor, I have reasons to believe made their home in a tent hidden in the trees, also alongside the highway. Unfortunately, I never saw or met them.

This person took the greatest care in the placement, positioning, selection, and staging of the material he had to work with. A refined taste. Rick Rubin, one of the greatest music producers, points out he knows almost nothing about music relative to the musicians he collaborates with, “My involvement is purely about taste.”

Since I can’t tell the highway artist in person, “I see, truly see, what you did here. I am impressed,” I will have to settle by sharing my sentiments and photos of their work here with you.

It took several days of reconnaissances to gain access to, find the light for, not trespass in their front yard, not cause an accident on the highway, not get killed by flying debris, and not have to explain myself to an officer in order to take the best photos I could muster. One night as the sun was all but set, it all came together.

Four days later, the artist’s home and gallery were gone. Thankfully, not due to ill will. Rather, the highway crews finally got around to clearing out the fire hazard nature had created. I hope the artist is comforted by the fact that many other wonderful galleries have lost their leases to outside forces.

I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to honor this unknown-to-me person’s highway gallery by creating a record of it. It’s the least I could do in thanks for the beauty they brought into the world.

And now … know the photograph.


By popular demand, behind the scenes, click for full-size:

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