Headlands Center for the Arts

Heather Smith

california | writing
Artist in Residence Program 2015

Artist Statement

I’ve written about how cities work, how agriculture works, how politics work, how our bodies work. Being a journalist means always asking questions. It means never quite being the expert at anything. It is a pretty great way to be in the world.

I’m also 1/3 of an arts collective called Shipping & Receiving. Our work is landscape focused – we create spaces that are meant to defamiliarize and reveal the city again, as if for the first time. One example: we built a replica of the night sky over California the year that gold was discovered (1848) — inside a 12 foot tall dome lined with tule reeds and carpeted with black patent leather water.

To me, these projects are all aspects of the same story – how things happen, as opposed to how we might like them to happen. Other people describe this as “the discrepancy between the ideal and the real” – that works for me, too.

While At Headlands

I’m here to write a series of interlocking essays about wildness and California, which I began to think about, more and more, after a friend asked me why there are bison in Golden Gate Park. Why are there bison in Golden Gate Park? It’s a long story. Kind of a gruesome one, too.

I’m most interested in the wildness in California that has survived and the wildness that left, but is making a move towards re-populating the state, like Wolf OR-7, the first wolf seen in California since 1924. The stretched pelt of the last wolf killed in California is still in the collection of the Oakland Museum, but OR-7 either didn’t know, or didn’t care. OR-7 wandered in the state for thousands of miles before returning to Oregon to reproduce — a trajectory also followed by many human Californians.

Selected Texts

12 Short Histories of the Bison in Golden Gate Park (383.41K)

Personal Website

http://www.strangerworks.com, http://www.shippingandreceiving.org