House With Dirt Yard
“I’ve been running the same desert streets up here where I live for twelve years. I love running at night and getting lost, winding my way through the roads until I don’t even know where I am. Sometimes, the only way I can find my way home is by following the mountain.
In the part of town where I run, most of the houses sit on 2 acre lots. As in most places in Tucson, the yards are hard packed dirt. There is no grass. No pretense of taming or changing the land. Just dirt. Sometimes the dirt is lined with rocks. Sometimes a cactus or desert tree grows out of the dirt. But the dominating feature of these yards is dirt and only dirt.
I’ve always been intrigued by the way these houses look at night, the way small signs of domestic life glow faintly in a sea of darkness and dirt. The flicker of a television, the sulfur yellow of a single lamp, or a tiny rectangle of light from a bathroom window are the only things that indicate people actually live behind these walls. The domestic space seems so isolated, fragile and removed from the landscape that encroaches on it. The night pushes right up to the doors and windows. The little smears and the people they represent seem so small compared to the immensity of the desert and the night sky.
The houses seem to me like snapshots from a film. A million stories run through my head as I run past them in the night. Sometimes the blurred light behind windows seems to sigh when I pass. Other times, the windows are as dark as the dirt yards as if all life has been extinguished.
There are no streetlights in Tucson, so when the dark sets in, it is very dark. The dirt yards merge with the night, blend right into the surrounding desert and dissolve into nothingness. The houses are isolated fortresses in this unforgiving landscape. Dirt pushes right against their walls.
People keep their dirt tidy. They rake their dirt, sweep their dirt, take leaf blowers to it. They spend their weekend afternoons tending to their dirt.
Tucson sits on a giant colony of termites that migrate from deep under the dirt and into the walls of houses. Somewhere under the hard surface of the desert, a giant Queen Termite sends her minions into houses to bring the walls down.
The little islands of domestic space we carve out of this landscape seem so ill-placed. I’ve observed these houses with their dirt yards for years, thinking that somehow they represent the tenuous hold all of us have on the planet. In the end, the TVs and the table lamps might still be standing, but we will all go back to dirt one way or another.
When I learned about a call for artists on the subject of Dirt from my friend Jide, my years of running through the desert at night and contemplating dirt yards all came together for me. So I’m going to put together a set of photos on dirt yards at night and try to figure out exactly what it is I have to say about them.
I’m only going to shoot houses from the streets where I run on. These are the places that I have woven into my personal geography and the way I occupy the Tucson landscape. These roads are like arteries in my life. Running through them gives me a physical hold on the planet. Looking through windows and watching these houses at night as I run through the streets has played a huge role in how I have come to relate to my own existence.
This is where I live now. I live in a place where yards are made of dirt. A place where I run at night and the dirt yards, the landscape of the desert and the night sky all bleed together into a blanket stillness. It makes my heart feel both completely alive and completely at rest, even when my feet are flying as fast as they can go.
I’m really inspired about this project. It feels really personal, really significant and makes me very happy. That’s a good thing”