Photo cred: Divya Mehra, 2012
I have been stuck on the side of an unmarked road in the middle of Saskatchewan not once, not twice, but three times now. Facing flatness at any one of the available three hundred and sixty degrees, I never know where to begin. A few artists and curators had tried to organize a province-wide art happening years ago called The End is the Beginning is The End. I understand what they mean now.
All three times I’ve been stuck, I was either going to or coming from a studio visit with Heather Benning. I have only visited her twice. You figure out the math. Leaving her family farm on a stretch of road somewhere near Venn and a ways from Watrous, which already, is situated in the middle of nowhere, my wee rental car kept getting stuck in the melting snowbanks. It should be illegal to rent small cars in certain provinces. Snow really piles up and the flatness is deceiving of depth.
After getting stuck the second time on a remote stretch of gravel road, I settled into a pure sensation of being completely stranded and being set free. Only an hour of time may have passed out there, but looking back, that hour reflected years of my life.
It was the last official studio visit I did for an exhibition that was at that point in time titled Isolated. I have been researching for this show actively since 2010, though I may have actually began in 2007. I covered a lot of ground to find these people, and the forthcoming exhibition is now titled They Made A Day Be A Day Here.
This last time of getting stuck was different. On the surface, it was mud, not snow, that halted the car. I had a road trip accomplice in Divya Mehra, who decided to wear white shoes. The air was dry even if it kept raining. The ground didn’t know how to retain the moisture. Clouds were hanging low enough to make you wonder what kept the sky from collapsing to the ground. Familiar as it all was, nothing felt quite like home anymore. One wrong turn and that was that.
My arms hurt for two days afterwards from repeatedly pushing the car forwards and back in the mud. The main difference was that I no longer lived in the prairies, and I wonder if that had anything to do with feeling less ridiculous when the wheels started spinning and the engine overheating and having absolutely no idea where we were. There is still mud on my boot heels. There are no signs in Saskatchewan except for these signs.