Langdon Graves tells us about how the history and storytelling of the town of Bisbee, AZ influenced the direction of her work while at the Uprise Art x Object Limited Residency.
Photos by Julius Schlosburg
“Probably because Bisbee is an antiques town, I set out for the residency with object histories in mind. I read this quote [by Vladimir Nabokov] shortly before my trip: 'When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object.'”
“I’ve been learning about different methods and implements of divination for a little while, and incorporating them into my work. Divination plays into some of the broader themes I’ve been exploring, involving belief and superstition, and finding meaning where we see it and as we need it. Surrounded by desert, I became interested in water divination or dowsing, also called water witching (even the wording of which inspires me to make). Dowsing has historically been used to locate not just water but other hidden or missing elements, like minerals, oil, even human beings – and since Bisbee was a mining town, there are reminders everywhere that so much of it is hidden inside the earth.”
“The shaping of the cigarettes in 'Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire' comes from both the L-shaped dowsing rod and also the way stories tend to bend and grow as they get passed from teller to teller – something I noticed a lot while in Bisbee, each time I heard one of its legendary ghost stories recounted by a different speaker.”
“Cigarettes have made a regular appearance throughout my recent work. I think of them as points of communication. Mouth pieces. They are symbolic of story-telling. The tradition of ritual smoking is common to many cultures, and even today, a cigarette break is often a time when people gather to converse. During the Women's Liberation movement in the US, when it was still largely considered vulgar for women to smoke in public, cigarettes became emblems of rebellion, independence and feminist solidarity, dubbed 'freedom torches' by tobacco companies. They are also small reminders of mortality – a few short breaths and they are reduced to ashes, which remain in a small vessel designed to contain them. ”