10.01.11 jrhs_ADMIN

BOOM: Art in the Land by Alex Schmidt

BOOM: A Journal of California featured photographs from JRHS  in their Fall 2011 issue for Art in the Land by Alex Schmidt.

1. The Question

One doesn’t visit the historic ranch house of cowboy-turned-actor Will Rogers to gawk at Hollywood extravagance. The cozy home sits nestled above Sunset Boulevard, in a leafy Pacific Palisades canyon. All of the old stuff in it—Rogers’s furniture, his cowboy boots, his western-themed knickknacks and art—are said to be exactly as he left them, down to their placement over fireplace and atop table. So, to a ten-year-old wandering around the house, it can make for a different sort of awe—the feeling of physically standing in the reality of another person from another time.

For me, the Will Rogers house was the seed of what would become a long running (and, until recently, mysterious) fascination with tours that touch the past. From the Palisades, it wasn’t too far a leap to the ghost towns of Southern California, where I’d road trip out to discover cultural remains of the desert. I never considered these trips critically; they were a hobby, and viscerally enjoying them without thought was its own reward. But I learned recently that physically experiencing local sites—touring—is an interest I share with other Southern Californians. The strangeness of that coincidence makes the question unavoidable: Where does our collective local, physical-aesthetic obsession come from? The centrality of landscape in Wonder Valley provided a clue.

Continue reading the full story online at: www.boomcalifornia.com/2011/09/art-in-the-land/