Lately, the weather has been a bit bipolar. Last week it reached a whopping 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and today it is 75 degrees with scattered thunderstorms. I was a sucker during both the days, and working in Midtown, NYC easily bought a personal fan and an umbrella on a whim, on each respective day. Living in these uncertain times, filled with barometric discrepancies has me dressing in mini skirts with scarves, wool pants with sandals, and linen shirts with a poncho. With weather straight out of the movie Jumanji, I keep expecting three-foot insects to land on my head, bats to fly in through windows, chattering monkeys to take over the office kitchen, and a stampede of giraffes to rush through the hallways. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little, but it just so happens that I am not so great with such a wild climate.
Certain artists, like mosses, enzymes, and lichens, are extremophiles. That is, an organism that lives and thrives in an extreme environment. The most famous of these artists is probably Georgia O’Keefe, who after her first summer in New Mexico, fell in love with the barren landscape and expansive skies of the desert. She relished the desolate and decaying bone graveyards. She loved the burning, hot tones of reds and oranges. O’ Keefe wrote, " I have picked flowers where I have found them- have picked up sea shells and pieces of rock and wood that I liked... When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert I picked them up and took them home too... I have used these things to say to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it." The so-called “Painter of the Desert” chose to live alone and eventually die in the New Mexican sun.
20x200 (where I intern) has its very own extremophile, Tom Prior, who is working on several documentary projects that look at beautiful and dangerous recreation spots around the world. He's photographed in the Bonnevile Salt Flats, whose highest recorded temperature was 112°F in 1939 and whose lowest recorded temperature was -18°F in 1990. His photographs at the Blackrock Tower in Ireland are slippery, treacherous, and filled with nervous anticipation. Prior says it best, “Its a mixture of the super dedicated people and beautiful open landscapes. I remembered the changing light and engine noise of Bonneville, Utah. Starting at about 4pm in summer the light changes by the minute all the way till dark after 10pm. Blackrock diving tower is such a cool structure, out there on that pier all by itself, and it’s so un-Americanly dangerous. The locations are simple yet not at all boring. They’re visually incredible but made more amazing by humans.”
But, maybe the most extreme is Steve Eiden’s account of Leonard Knight who for the past 24 years has been living alone in the desert of Niland, California, a few miles from the shores of the Salton Sea, working ceaselessly on a giant monument to God known as Salvation Mountain. During the five coldest months of the year, he sleeps in the back of an old broken down flatbed truck. The other seven months of the year, he sleeps in this bed.
Rah rah sis boom bah - You guys, it's been a tough two weeks. I haven't felt great physically *or* emotionally, and Ben was out of town for thirteen days in a row. Thankfully he...