Left Behind

Old objects left behind by man have always fascinated me. Maybe it’s the Raider’s of the Lost Ark effect (I’m a child of the 80s) but old objects speak to me. They have story, history, texture and character.

I spend every winter in the deserts of Arizona in a tiny town that was once a booming miner’s depot and hot swap meet. For one to two weeks out of the year, it still tries to be this hub, but it has changed.

This entire town has been left behind. The old timers living in the year round RV parks, who originally came here for the gem shows and cheaper lifestyle, are now stuck. They are dying slowly in their RVs, with no family or social services to help them. It’s heartbreaking to see.

There are elements of every genernation that once frequented this place left behind in nooks and crannies throughout town. The metal sign from the 1950s promoting the show grounds, the no-tell motel from the 1960s serving Friday fish fries and cheap overnight stays, the gas station from the 1930s that used to fuel the old Fords as they made their way across the deserts. Hell, there’s even remenants of the old jail and camel barn from the 1800s hanging on to be remembered out here.

The point is, most of this town is left behind. And this town is not alone. All across this country, the mark of our human life on this beautiful land can be found. Where rust meets paint, metal meets Earth and cement slowly crumbles back to dust.

The Left Behind Collection is an ongoing documentation of these objects and places that we’ve simply left behind. No longer useful, no longer functioning-- no longer serving the purpose it was created for-- these items are simply left to rot.

And in that decay there is beauty. A beauty of texture, hidden story and unique craftsmanship. You don’t find signs in the modern world that can withstand 60 years of harsh desert sunlight.  In this decay lies a human story as well. An object that helped someone accomplish a small-- or large-- feat. An object that had value to someone, maybe even a life and death value, yet here it sits, decaying and neglected.

I often wonder what that goodbye was like for the person. Did they even know they were seeing this object for the last time? When that gas station from the 1930s was shuttered for the last time, did the owner give a tearful goodbye? Did the government sieze it for money owed and simply shut it down? Did the owner pass away with a final farewell to his labor of love?

I know many people don’t think of objects this way, but I do. For whatever reason, when an object has a profound impact on me, I have an energetic connection to it. One of my more vivid early memories was when my dad sold his old, 1960s grey Chevy pickup truck with the wheelwell indentations on the bed. I loved that truck-- everything about it! The day he sold it, I sat at my bedroom window and wept like I’d lost a loved one as the man who bought it drove her out of my life. I was 5 years old.

When my dad passed away at a young age, I eventually began driving his pickup truck. She’s a 1995 Nissan 4x4 and she is like an appendage to my body. She’s old in need of repair, but I drive her everyday. I often joke that if anything ever happens to her (because I’ll be damned if I repeat that memory from when I was 5) I’ll need some serious therapy to get past it. And I’m not actually joking.

As a child, I used to play in my dad’s old 1949 Dodge sedan that he was always restoring or tinkering with. He redid the interior and it was stunning. I used to sit in the back seat and admire all the chrome and metal. The way it felt under my fingers, the old radio knobs and glass dials, the eternal craftsmanship that would never truly age with time. It only got better. And the smell of sliding into that backseat. There’s no other smell like that of an antique car. It just sings to my soul. She’s got character-- she’s got bones.

That’s the origin of my fascination with things that are left behind. It started when I was young and continues now.

This latest collection is my interpretation of the town of Quartzsite and all the elements left behind that piqued my interest.