XXL: America

By Leah Sinclair

The Live Issue
Photo©Rebecca Norris Webb, from My Dakota (Radius, 2012) published in .Cent Magazine’s The Live Issue

Flying to my new home in New York from San Francisco last week, looking out the window I watched as the expansiveness of America soared beneath me. This country is vast, almost unfathomably so. Mile after mile after mile after mile of terrain unfolded in front of me sky born eyes. I was raised here, but moved away almost a decade ago to the U.K. and have only returned to calling America home in the last few months. Seeing it now, this land speaks so differently to me.

Some where over the middle the thought occurred to me, what does space have to do in relation to art. America is a blank canvas, a fresh page, a lump of unmolded clay. (Which lets be honest, is far from true. The land of America has been watered in the blood and the genocide of countless Indian tribes, of countless wars; from civil to race and all in between. It is a land of haunted memories, mistakes, depressions.) Yet still it presents itself for the taking as an unmolded space for us to project our artistic and personal fantasies and bring them, fleshed into the space of reality. America’s power of seduction lies in its ability to make us forget, in its power to present itself as the illusion of a fresh start to everyone. The land of America, in its vastness whispers into your ears, that it can never be filled, that there is always more to be explored, that you can produce something new here.

I have become used to living on a small island. Cliffs and sand dunes, the salt stinging air of the sea, the ebb and flow of the tide, these things hardly feel far away from you wherever you are in the U.K. Where as in America one can get lost in a corn field the size of Devon. There is such remembered history in the U.K. so much memory. It falls like rain across the land and watered from it all things grow.

America is a country of loud dreamers, tall tales, big moments. We make the world each day afresh and drink in the well of possibility. We look forward, we hardly reflect and something from 100 years ago is so unfathomably old we lump its existence in with the dinosaurs.

What is art so removed from history, what is art so alone in its presentation. Yes we have traditions of artists, histories of movements, we remember when Warhol changed the world, and last week when Beyoncé did it again, but here in America, in its vastness, we make art personal, we make it ours, we cut it from history and let it seep from ourselves, we want our art, our dreams to solidify and help us hold onto this ground. We are all forever at risk of floating away.

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