27 December 2006

Urban beauty, urban decay

Art opportunities and inspiration are all around us, even in urban dust and decay.

For example, it's quite impermanent, but I was dazzled by the art drawn on dirty cars: Scott Wade's Dirty Car Art Gallery.

I like websites that help me look at my environment differently. That's why I like Street Stickers, Poster Art & Graphics. I may actually take out my camera and head into areas where graffiti and stickers are routine on buildings and other publicly displayed surfaces. I like the idea of contrasting modern stickers and art with decaying 19th century urban structures.

Okay... this next series of links started when I stumbled upon Dark Passages, which is definitely dark and eerie, and well (and perhaps only) suited to my friends who enjoy creepy, disturbing, haunted places.

From there, I found a link to Ars Subterranea--which is a little lighter and more clearly an organized (sort of) ongoing project--and wandered around their website.

From their projects page, I found several interesting links. I love the ideas sparked by The Riddle of the Buried Stream. It makes me wonder what else is hidden around cities and towns, and we don't know to look for it.

My interest was piqued by the mention of the Temple of the Sunfish Pond, so I started researching Sunfish Pond in NJ's Worthington State Forest. It sounds like a wonderful hiking spot if you can handle a steep, rocky climb. In fact, I'm intrigued by the sites--including Sunfish Pond--mentioned on a page about Old Mine Road.

Going back to Ars Subterranea, I checked their Resources page. I warmed immediately (no pun intended) to the photos at Mustard Gas Party. The b&w photos at their link labeled Woolworth... that makes me want to take my large format camera, load it with b&w film, and go exploring. Or, at least throw my digital camera into my purse and start taking photos.

Okay, I didn't warm to every link. For example, Handcranked Films features profoundly bleak views with some themes of suicide. Oh, the films are very artistic but several convey terrible,"why bother" attitudes that--for me--don't contribute to an inspired, creative state of mind. *shudder*

On the other hand, quirky concepts such as Ruins in ASCII delight me. I look at short, online films such as Rest Area (at MotelSign.com), and grin. (Can you imagine generating a career--or at least a book--by photographing motel signs..? Isn't that cool!)

Then there's the Museum of Lost Wonder, which is cool to tour but... It's like it doesn't go far enough; it's too restrained for me.

Then there are photo essays such as Shaun O'Boyle's Old Salem Jail which make me realize how many "ruins" I see every day and don't stop to photograph... or even appreciate. (Right now, I'm thinking about the derelict rice bins and storage facilities near me in Katy, Texas.)

...Speaking of sites worth visiting, maybe your community has a list of "endangered sites" similar to the ones at Historic Salem, Inc. Tip: At that site, be sure to check the list of endangered sites in each of their past newsletters. That's where you'll find even more ideas for derelict places to visit around Salem, MA.

Here are a few other, similar lists that I found: Rochester, NY. brettcody77's list led me to the World Monuments Fund, whose current Fieldwork Projects include New Orleans (you can also download their annual 100 list).

There's also an endangered architecture photo page at 43 Things.

Rock County, WI has an endangered list online. Chicago's 7 most endangered buildings are described at Chicago Preservation. You may be able to find similar lists about sites near you, searching on "endangered architecture" and the name of your town or city. (I didn't find much for Houston or even Texas, but I'm still looking.)

And, sooner or later--if you're interested in exploring (and photographing) abandoned urban sites--you're likely to land at a very cool anti-establishment zine, Infiltration, which encourages... well, there's no other way to say it: trespassing. I discovered this strange little zine several years ago, and its flippant attitudes intrigue me.


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