We join Carla Weeks in her Philadelphia studio to learn about her series of paintings Wonder Valley Homesteads, based on architecture tracing back to the Small Tract Act of 1938 in the Mojave Desert.
Photos by Chris Setty
“I passed through Wonder Valley in January of this year on a trip to the Mojave Desert with one of my closest friends. I had a vague knowledge of the old homestead structures, and was curious about their history and current state of abandonment. Since most of my research into the history of Wonder Valley came after I visited, my experience of the sprawling structures was visceral, focused on form, and unaware of context. In the moment, I could only wonder about the indigenous populations that must have come before, and the complex framework imposed by the US government through which to sell off the land.”
“The sight of the empty 300 sq ft homes sitting within the vast desert landscape was striking, almost shocking. Outside of its own complicated history, this place became a pseudo-context for some recent, personal thought on the cultural constructs surrounding homeownership, and its connection to our identity. In this body of work, I document my experience of the homestead structures using shape and color to describe interlocking planes of landscape and architecture. Painting on sized linen, I apply transparent and opaque layers of oil color – pushing and pulling the planes of color, manipulating perspective.”
“This more figurative series is a departure from my more abstract and repetitious pattern-based work. The focus on individual structures felt like an appropriate response to my experience of them: isolated within the landscape. Each composition employs three simple shapes to describe an architectural structure and its relationship to the landscape it sits in.”
“I enjoy the challenge of reducing these structures and landscapes to their most minimal form while retaining an honest imprint of my personal experience.”