My American Dream: Mystery Train
American Talc, 2017 oil on linen 40 × 60 in. | 101.6 × 152.4 cm
American Talc, 2017
oil on linen 40 × 60 in. | 101.6 × 152.4 cm

American Talc is a factory in the middle of the desert outside my best friend Dan’s beloved hometown of El Paso, Texas. Dan brought us there in our photographic journey across country, when he volunteered to drive me and my entire husband’s and I’s belongings to a new life in Southern California. To my delight, he insisted we see this factory. The surrealism of the place, with its white powder under a billowing sky reminded me of Turner, the Hudson River School meeting the Precisionists, and also Gursky and the Bechers (and Ed Ruscha!). I love America and its power, but am also worried about our times and–in our hubris–how we are threatening our fate by the undermining of our commitment to greatness by greed and corruption. The ironic allegory here is that talc powder recently has been discovered to potentially cause cancer, a big concern amongst those who might use baby powder and the like (however this factory mentions on its website its primary use of their product goes towards tiles and other parts of construction and industry). This factory could stand for the romantic notions of capitalism and industry in America, but also the potential end game of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and what is happening to the environment, our bodies, and the country in our rage for ultimate power—the mendacity of evil. The Precisionists, whom I love, regaled their brushes to create images of the pristine forms of the factory, representing American industry and know-how and the can-do spirit, but failed to document the workers that were being exploited in the process. If they had panned out more, they would have seen those proletariats, beginning to unionize and take efforts for their own empowerment, and if you could pan out over time, one might see the vision of that whole apparatus, the system of capital, to come to our current state of deregulation, and not only further exploitation of workers but of our planet, but to the degrading ends of Global Warming threatening the fate of all that lives on the planet, along with bad politics and further threats of nuclear disaster and war.

After taking many photos around the factory, we were taking off, but looking behind us, I made Dan stop the van, as the cargo trains made the whole apparatus look like a Noah’s Arc, a Fitzcarraldo-like boat (or Close Encounters ship!) stuck in the middle of the desert. Nature conquers all, and I love looking at clouds for forms and faces, the heavenly sky reminding us of the sublime power of time, and an environment that hopefully overcomes and overwhelms man’s exploitation of the environment and our world.