Saturday, May 12, 2018
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Lancaster Museum of Arts and History
665 W Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster, California 93534, Lancaster CA 93534
“High & Dry: Land Artifacts,” an exhibition comprising work by writer/historian Christopher Langley and photographer Osceola Refetoff, opens at MOAH on Saturday, May 12 with a reception from 4-6PM. The cross-platform show is part of a long-term collaboration between Langley and Refetoff that explores the realities and myths of the California desert and the people who live there. Refetoff’s infrared photography and Langley’s thoughtful text focus on both the remnants and destiny of these vast, open spaces – arid terrain that historically has been used for resource extraction, toxic dumping, and military-industrial exercises. Now, this dramatic topography faces a future dominated by immense wind and solar farms, and the complicated dynamics of critical resource allocation. The show runs through July 15.
Through “High & Dry: Land Artifacts,” Langley and Refetoff seek to raise awareness about the changing utilization of the desert through engaging visual and literary storytelling, presenting the land itself as a principal character. The exhibition examines the things we’ve left behind and what they reveal about our civilization – as well as the legacy to come, to be written by the emergent energy-harvesting industry whose remains will undoubtedly include an abundance of huge turbines and photovoltaic cells. The artists’ hope is that their work will be part of a meaningful conversation regarding the choices being made in the land rush to install wind and solar arrays – and that those involved will consider development in the context of best serving the desert environment and its inhabitants.
Their collaboration grew out of inspiration from legendary 20th century partnerships between writers and photographers commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Farm Security Administration (FSA), including the work of Walker Evans with James Agee, and Dorothea Lange with Paul Taylor. In the spirit of those legendary projects, “High & Dry: Land Artifacts” seeks a balance of words and images, supporting each other via different perspectives – social, economic, geographical, and historical.
Throughout his work, Los Angeles-based photographer Osceola Refetoff’s interest is in documenting humanity’s impact on the world – the intersection of nature and industry, and the narratives of the people living at those crossroads. He chose to record images for “High & Dry: Land Artifacts” through infrared exposures because of the medium’s aesthetic quality, and its ability to capture dramatic landscapes in “bad” midday light. The raw intensity of the desert’s vastness, and the graphic relationship between land and sky are accentuated. “It’s another kind of light, one we can’t actually see with our own eyes,” says Refetoff, “yet an accurate representation of the world, just through a different wavelength.”
Christopher Langley is a life-long educator who has lived in and studied the Mojave Desert for more than 45 years. He and his wife, who met in the Peace Corps, wanted to raise a family, in a “severely rural” location outside the stream of everyday life; they love the desert and positively contributing to its evolution. Working as a film historian, founder of the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine, and Inyo County Film Commissioner, he focuses on the desert’s complex relationship with cinema, and how land plays an essential role in the story of our lives. Co-founder of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, Langley’s environmental advocacy has won the National Conservation Cooperation Award. His writing is widely syndicated and includes three books on California’s arid landscape.
Langley and Refetoff have collaborated since 2013 on High & Dry, which is a regular feature on KCET’s Emmy-winning program Artbound. “High & Dry: Land Artifacts” will be the first art exhibit to incorporate elements from MOAH’s permanent collection of historical artifacts. The artists encourage visitors to bring a single item – something non-toxic – that they would like to leave behind for future generations in a time capsule to be created in conjunction with this exhibit.
Pictured: “Resting Place, Abandoned Kaiser Plant,” by Osceola Refetoff