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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Diane Durant

SPE Member since 2010
Member Chapter: South Central

Between Here and Cool

It all started with a title. Like Ed Ruscha's "Twentysix Gasoline Stations", "Between Here and Cool" arose out of a phrase stuck in my head like a bull nettle stuck to my sock. (Rub cow manure on a bull nettle sting, my grandmother would say.) I had to do something with it, and I needed a creative dissertation project like I needed oxygen. Graduate student travel grants were being offered through the university; I drafted a proposal and applied for the grant with no intention of actually receiving it -- with no intention of actually having to follow through with, well, anything. There was no concern for the logistics: single, thirty-something mother with silver Prius seeks to travel more than 4,000 miles and across 15 states in daring attempt to document the great American landscape on a great American road trip -- alone. But someone, or some committee, thought it just might work.

For 18 days, I drove: traveling the back roads and blue highways, it was 5,926.4 miles between here and Cool -- between Cool, Texas; Cool, California; Cool, Iowa; and home again. Boldly, and sometimes foolishly, I encountered the American landscape and its dreams, pushing my own automobility far beyond what I ever thought possible on the road (actual and metaphorical). In the grand tradition of the American road story, I documented my experience through image and text, relic and road-trip ephemera. This happened: 1 moving violation (warning); 30 minutes at a Border Patrol checkpoint; 2 more Border Patrol checkpoints; 1 wedding ceremony; 1 friend's birthday (missed); 18 souvenir t-shirts; 22 souvenir coffee mugs (Wyoming has the best coffee mugs.); 1 evening worrying about the upcoming 3 days in the Grand Canyon; 3 days in the Grand Canyon; 1 Firestone 15" 195/65R15 tire (flat); 2 mechanics; 29 postcards; 46 (roughly) dropped calls; 1/4 lb of Green's Creek Gruyere (I left my cheese in Marfa.); 17 stops for gas; 14 motel beds; 54 meals; 6 cameras; 56 rolls of film; more than 1 way to go; more than 1 dead end. And I have proof.

Confession: this project has been the thorn in my side for over two years now. After returning from an 18-day trip, processing over 700 photographs (and innumerable experiences), defending my creative PhD dissertation (and innumerable experiences), and finally mounting a solo exhibition in the summer of 2013, I still can't shake it. There must be more to say with image and text and object than one exhibition can bear -- like the swell at the cutbank, like the last drop before your spiritual cup overfloweth. And so I'm going to sit a while longer in this work and let the story continue to tell itself, from photographs of forgotten signs to fast food sacks on display, from vinyl text to visual narrative.

This is what happened out there. And then some.

Christopher and Randy, Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express, Farmington MO

Wamsutter Baptist Church, Wamsutter WY

FM 113, Millsap TX

Bill's Garage, St. Genevieve MO

Texaco, Sierra Blanca TX

Bowlin's Running Indian, Deming NM

Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas NV

Hilltop Motel, Kingman AZ

Strawberries, Anna TX

Sinclair, Baker NV

UntitledRon & Judy's Smoke Shop, Tallulah LA

Casey's Motel, Memphis TN

Stagecoach 66 Motel, Seligman AZ

Champs Sports Bar, Ely NV

Deser-Est Motel, Ely NV

Quarry, Maintenance, and Allied Workers 830, St. Genevieve MO

Installation view, "Between Here and Cool" at CentralTrak, Dallas

Installation view, "Between Here and Cool" at CentralTrak, Dallas

Installation view, "Between Here and Cool" at CentralTrak, Dallas

Signs and Signifiers (The American Dream)

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