Residency Project

Headlands Center For The Arts
Residency Project

Marin (muh-RIN): The name of a great Miwok Indian chief who fought the Spaniards, was captured, imprisoned, escaped, and continued to terrorize the missions; or the bastard son of a Spanish sailor who escaped from a wrecked galleon, his mother the sailor¹s native consort; or a simple Indian boatman who crossed the Bay on an armful of bulrushes; or no Indian at all, but a Spanish sailor, "el marinero" ("unlikely Main was a Indian nameŠ in his native language the sound Œr¹ does not occur"). Legendary India chief, skilled sailor, or first on and then the other; Miwok or Spaniard; or no one in particular: there is a tradition but no evidence for all and noneŠ*

Much like the name itself, Marin is a place that has a rich and diverse tradition which has included many inhabitants. The Miwok Indians came to Marin from the north; from the south, came the Spanish. The Portuguese, the Russians, the English, the US military, goldminers, sailors, and ranchers have all made their mark on The Marin Headlands. Even the perigrine falcon may fly from as far north as Alaska to find itself a place there. What evidence of their presence is left? My artwork is about capturing a sense of who has inhabited a place through the place itself. What is evident is a description of who once inhabited a place. The presence is described through the environment. By picturing only the things and not the people, the viewer can be involved in the construction of identities, in the creation of the stories about the place and the people.

My interest in creating this type of artwork stems from the place itself. The absence/presence of the people in my photography has been, up to now, about a place that has been vacated moments ago, or at the most, days ago. The history of the Marin Headlands offers me an opportunity to capture the essence of a people left from many years ago, as many as 10,000 years ago by some accounts. The body of work that would result would find its strength in the fact that this one place has been occupied by so many, including the viewer and the artist. The mark of that presence would no longer be taken for granted, and certainly not disregarded.

Keats wrote of Byron: "He describes what he sees ­ I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task." A photograph represents to me a use made of what is seen, a combining of things observed, with the effects of light, the capabilities of a camera, the confidence of a plan, all fused with some ingredient of time, past and present. This type of photography is not easy. It takes careful observation, an understanding of place, and deference to time. The studio at the Marin Headlands, the company of artists, and the access to its place, will hasten its fruition. 

*Miles DeCoster et al. Headlands: the Marin coast at the Golden Gate. (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1989), p.1