Tomiko Jones nominated the writer, historian and activist Rebecca Solnit
Beautifully weaving history, ecology, politics and deep thought into a riveting narrative, reading Rebecca Solnit is a bit like spending the afternoon with a brilliant friend who knows you intimately. She is at once searing and loving. She always shows up when I need her.
The overarching element throughout my own work is a relationship to place. Exploring the geography of changing landscapes, I create loose mappings that echo the internal terrain of thought. I find quiet, yet significant moments in the transitional place between land and water, destruction and reclamation, thought and action. Her writing takes me on a journey, visiting places so close to my heart - the landscape, our place within it, the damaging and restorative actions of humans - that I can see, feel, hear and breathe the scene on the page. It helps me better understand the work I am making.
Although I first came across Solnit’s writing in a scholarly setting a decade ago in As Eve Said to the Serpent, over the years I come across her writing at just the right time. In considering photography’s explicit role in western expansion while working on Rattlesnake Lake, I suddenly come across a passage in River of Shadows talking about the exact same thing. When Just Six Degrees contacted me for Chain Reaction, I listed her as an inspiration, yet within the next few months, my life changed dramatically – my father passed away after a long illness and I moved to San Francisco. As part of an art seminar I was developing about place in my new “home”, I again came to Solnit for guidance in Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. At the same time I also purchased her latest book, The Faraway Nearby, which I am in the middle of reading. In it she talks about many things including the decline of her mother and the passing of generations. Being so recently separated from my father, whose passion for exploration has always influenced my art practice, I am reading this one slowly as I unwind my own grief. I am not sure how it keeps happening, but I feel grateful Rebecca Solnit puts into words the things that I cannot.
Work by Rebecca Solnit:
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