I was awarded an Art Matters Grant in 2012 to travel to the La Brea Pitch Lake in Trinidad to investigate the possible influence that this site may have on my art. In 2013, I went to Trinidad and was concurrently artist in residence at Alice Yard, a contemporary art space in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
At the LA Brea Pitch Lake, I took several photographs that were luscious and significant, especially one that I called “Pitch Pot” which refers to the center of the lake, the place where all its chemical activity emanates. The image was captured right at my feet and comprised of an area that was actually smaller than my foot. This small molecular area resonated with the history, the chemical and the mythical reality of the La Brea Pitch Lake. Right there, was folklore, the tale of the retribution of the gods on the Amerindians for killing hummingbirds to celebrate victory over another tribe. In one night, the Pitch Lake appeared, engulfed and consumed the village. The picture quietly captures the lake releasing gas bubbles and emergent viscous material.
I was manipulating these images because they all implied aspects of an event, the 'edges' of an occurrence. I flipped the images to produce a mirroring effect. Mythological faces appeared, witnesses to the eons of ‘presence’ at this site but it was not enough. In the process of manipulating the “Pitch Pot” image in this manner, I realized what I needed to attempt at Alice Yard. Early on, the idea of ‘residue’ was peculating in my head. The Pitch Lake is constantly, re-constituting, replenishing and re-purposing itself. I wanted to create something that reflected this visually and conceptually.
Asphaltum Glance is a wall drawing/ painting that was a visual, visceral and olfactory experience. One of the materials that I used to ‘paint’ was bituminous (asphaltum) paint; a waterproof sealant that rejuvenates surfaces and prevents corrosion is used in construction and marine applications all over the world and is produced by Lake Asphalt Trinidad and Tobago Limited. The factory sits on the periphery of the La Brea Pitch Lake. The paint has a strong, lingering scent of asphalt. The odor was as physically present as the thick texture of the paint itself.
" Three principal varieties of asphaltum are found here (at the La Brea Pitch Lake in Trinidad) - asphaltum glance, the purest of all... ordinary asphaltum, by far the most common; and asphaltum oil or petroleum."