Why I Love This Art features museum employees, volunteers, and interns talking about art they love from the exhibitions at MCA Denver. Here Event and Rental Manager Erin Algiere writes about Patti Hallock's exhibition The West is Here, on view through Sunday, March 3, 2013.
I would like to admit that I frequently find myself in Patti Hallock's gallery when I am supposed to be at my desk plugging away at accounting spreadsheets. And I realize that I could have gone anywhere else in the building to get away from those spreadsheets, yet chose to be among Patti Hallock’s desert views.
I’m willing to admit something else: I am a die-hard romantic, a cliché of a hard shell grumbling outside protecting a squishy, romantic sop inside – a sop who wants everything in the world to have an affected touch of drama topped off by a heightened sense of importance.
But Patti Hallock is not offering romance to me – or to anyone else for that matter. And my dashed idealizations of landscape are exactly what I like about The West Is Here. Hallock is certainly not mooning about our national parks (a favorite pastime of mine) or searching out a majestic version of the great outdoors which takes a guidebook and seven Sherpas to get to (I’ll mention here that I had a dog-sledding ambition as a child). Hallock is creating images that live in the now, that represent the allure of the West as she finds it.
But these images are more than documents from a passing traveler. They are crafted with the intimate knowledge of a native, someone whose scope of beauty isn’t confined to idealism or nostalgia. The more time I spend with these images the more it becomes apparent that Hallock is honing her gaze on details of the landscape, forming deceptively simple compositions that touch on human presence scattered through desert vistas. That bleached out, crumpled blanket in scrubby bushes isn’t a political comment about how we all need to become stewards for our planet; the dirty old blanket melts into the landscape, a fuzzy blur amidst blazing natural beauty. Those cans? Those aren’t petrified litter. They are perfectly planned desert compositions corralled into place by Hallock’s lens.
I love that you don’t get cowboys or palominos from The West is Here – you get a sense of place. A place where I’d rather be: traveling through the West, taking it in through the eyes of someone interested in the details. I love this art.
Image credit: Field, Nunn, CO, 2008. 30 x 40 inches. Archival pigment print.