Brigham Young University art professor Brian Christensen says the “most seminal experience of epiphany in 2018” happed during the second season of BYU’s Art Advanced Summer Intensive program, which he organized with colleague Collin Bradford. During the program students visited land art sites and engaged the landscape with art by making work there, bringing them back and “examining off-limits places as closely as possible.”
Christensen made several of his own site specific / environmental installations along with the students, sparking new ideas that have “influenced my art practice in many unexpected ways since.” More revelatory, however, may have been the group dynamic of the experience, so different from his usual solitary pilgrimages to open spaces. “The amount of time that we spent in the desert as a cohesive group accumulated and condensed in me a sense of the sublime. Not the surface of sublime as a pleasurable experience but more like this 16th century origin definition:
Late 16th century (in the sense ‘dignified, aloof’): from Latin sublimis, from sub- ‘up to’ + a second element perhaps related to limen ‘threshold,’ limus ‘oblique.’
“The desert can be a liminal space,” he says. “A doorway to something larger than yourself, larger than our species. The sublime can be the perception of something incomprehensible, which a person can only submit to rather than dominate. We cannot destroy the desert. We can only intensify it and make it less habitable to our purposes. This is true of the earth as a whole, but the desert will always win, and life will always loose if life does not conform to that impervious reality. It is possible to be at peace in 118° f if you accept it and adapt to it.”
View more of the artist’s work at brian-christensen.com.
Best Of (2018) curated by Emily Larsen.