The Land with No Name

by chelseajin

Off to adventure land today, or rather The Land with No Name. It’s a place Ted and Kate are working on as a studio space and sculpture park. They host their own work as well as those of others who have no room for their pieces in their studios.

I’m still charmed by the mountain landscape. I really hope I don’t get tired of it. So I’m staring out of the window, and suddenly I ask Ted how he can stand coming back to NY when he does. The further away from the city we get and the more prominent nature becomes, I feel all my practical life concerns just leaving.  He replies that he needs the variety to make the difference more apparent so that he can appreciate Arizona more when he comes back. Thinking about it, I guess it’s true. The human ability to acclimate and build a tolerance to anything is pretty amazing.
Eventually we drive up to Todd’s Restaurant, which is situated perfectly next to Ryan Airfield. Turns out T/K eat there pretty often and know the family who run the business. Since they’re right next to the airfield, you’ve got these windows looking out towards the planes. I got a “not” hollandaise eggs dish, even though I now HATE hollandaise (thanks lovely boyfriend and Popover Café for saturating me with way too much of it), to try something new. Meanwhile, I’m going after the coffee like crazy despite knowing that it’s the worst thing to do in a desert. Since I don’t have it at home, it’s become a treat. The food comes out and it’s great. This person understands that you don’t need more than 3 spoonfuls of it, and it doesn’t coat everything with that gross greasy taste.
After breakfast, we go out to the Land in earnest.
By now there are hardly any road signs, which are tiny in Arizona. They’re the size of regular residential street signs. I think Ted must have the eyes of a hawk, or he’s injecting vitamin A into his eyeballs before he goes to sleep because he has absolutely no trouble noticing these signs even in the dark. The landscape now is all dirt and lots of shrubs and cacti, but no houses. The further we go in, the more empty it becomes.
City girl reporting in to tell you she saw a dead deer.
The roads are now completely unmarked and really bumpy. I thought it was going to be pretty hot there, so I brought a jacket to get covered up just in case, and wore a tank top. But he says that it’s got some altitude, and sure enough, we’re climbing, and the flatland just sort of drops under us.
Initial view
It’s not a very long ride after that, and we get off. It’s dead quiet. Once in a while there’s an eerie whistling due to the wind goes through some holes in a metal shelf they have there. I get the bathroom tour, and I fall in love. Later, when they asked me which sculpture was my favorite—I almost answered “the bathroom”.
They put in a cute path with solar powered lights and glass tiles to a little roofless room made out of cinder blocks with a sink out front that uses “plumbing” into the dirt. You walk into this winding spiral and they’ve got a toilet on top of a removable barrel. You do your business while having a nice view of the mountains and clear blue sky, then you toss some sawdust over it, which neutralizes the smell. I’ve been in some bad outhouses before. So bad that everyone in the trip agreed not to eat solid food so that we would avoid spending a long time in the toxic waste hut. There was absolutely no odor here. The barrels are removed once they’re full and the sun kills the bacteria, and it basically becomes dirt. It’s a pretty awesome concept. The spiral shape is also really effective and unique because it just curls in and gives you a great sense of privacy.
I’m a happy camper now that I’ve got an outlet for the coffee. They pointed out a huge wooden ball Ted made, then they show me this huge tractor trailer they brought from Kate’s father in Vermont. Behind that there were these 2 huge metal cylinders, water storage tanks that they got from someone. They’re thinking of making them into sleeping quarters, and I stepped inside as Kate dozed off in the other one. It really narrows your field of vision to lie down in the tube and stare out of the opening. At the current angle, all you see if sky, but there are hardly any clouds, so all you really see is a blue every painter would be jealous of—perfectly blended with no variation in color or streak-lines. And I feel a tunnel-vision sense of serenity. I could probably lie there all day looking at a blue circle.
A “sundog”. I’m blotting out the sun for my eyes.
Fairy Duster
I get up to explore on my own. One usually thinks of sculpture gardens having huge towering structures. I love having a behemoth as much as the next person, but this place is a little different. There are a lot of small hidden pieces you just stumble across. It’s kind of like finding a trinket in a box or some money you’ve had in jeans and totally forgotten about. When you find it, you’re intrigued and really happy. Big pieces are put in to awe, but small pieces draw you in. The size makes someone come closer to inspect it, and creates a sense of intimacy. I joke a lot that proximity is half the battle in dating. But I think there’s a lot of truth to it. There’s electricity in touch and eye contact—these are things you just can’t have digitally. Similarly, standing closer to a small piece makes you think about it more.
I’m tramping through the grass now, keeping my eye on the ground for snakes since as T/K said, it’s a big snake year and they’ve had a couple rattlers on the property. While I would love to get bitten by a rattlesnake so that I could write about the experience, it’s something I’ll put on my to-do list for later. I’m heading towards these 3 little white people statues out on a hill and I keep running into these CLACK-CLACK-CLACKing noises every few steps. I finally realized that they’re these black grasshoppers that jump away when you get too close. The sound is a little unnerving because I’m watching out for snake noises.
“Better Border Buddies”
Horny Toad!
I ended up coming back around to the gorgeous patio T/K made. It makes me really happy to see flush edges (that’s probably why I like wooden boxes so much). The brickwork is really tight here, and it’s super functional. There’s places to sit everywhere, little fireplaces, and cubbies to stash things (or to watch out for snakes lol). I just lay down under a tree and closed my eyes for a while. Kate was playing a bit of guitar, going between something nice and something melancholy. Ted was off picking up the grad students.
The more I look at it, the more it looks like a hawk.
Once Ted brought the grad students in, we had introductions all around. I patted myself on the back for remembering everyone’s names from the dinner I had first met them. Ted and Kate then took us on the grand tour.
Funky piece with a lot of monkeys. Kind of like Escher and Magritte meet the zoo.
The patio from the other side
Ted’s ball
Fish in a dry streambed
Don’t quite remember the full name, but it went along the lines of “announcing your wishes to the world”. Someone wished for Candy Corn Oreos (yes, they exist. We ate the rest of the package at dinner)
Kate’s reworking these trees from a huge forest fire. It’s really tribal looking and I like it. I’m pretty impressed that she got all those curves looking so smooth.
Rainbow cactus
My actual favorite piece. It reminds me of The Mask.
It started getting dark, and the guys got the grill going. I was reminded of how my dad and I needed copious amounts of lighter fluid in the woods when we went camping. Even then, the fire died every 10 minutes. The guys grilled the food they brought, and it got me thinking: etiquette for coming to a place—bring meat in a cooler.
Without city lights, the night was truly black. I wish I had my tripod and remote shutter because it was the perfect opportunity to get some star pictures. Back home, it’s Orion’s Belt and the Dippers, and not much else. Here, the stars just explode across the sky. I haven’t even seen the Milky Way. Neal or Neil, not sure how to spell his name, told us how ancient Greeks used to test their soldier’s eyesight by asking them to point out that the 2nd star in the handle of the Big Dipper was actually 2 stars. That was pretty cool. Of course, degenerate cheaters we were, we pulled out binoculars.
On the ride back, Ted was roaring down the dirt roads and we ran into some open range cows just sitting in the middle of the road. Imagine if we had hit one, I think we would have been more injured.