Headlands Center for the Arts

Jonathan Calm

california | visual
Larry Sultan Photography Award Program 2019

 

Artist Statement

My earlier art practice questions and critiques white utopias of modernist architecture and artistic “happenings” to reveal hidden narratives and forgotten participants. In recent work, through a varied array of visual media (including performance, installation, reenactment and portraiture), I explore the complex representation of African-American automobility from a historical and contemporary perspective, focusing and drawing on the importance and resonance of the Negro Motorist Green Book. The image of the infinite highway and the unbridled freedom to roam the land has always been considered a quintessential expression of the modern American spirit, but the black American experience of travel, which involves heightened subjectivity and exposure has to this day proven a precarious privilege rather than an inalienable right.

While at Headlands

While at Headlands, I will expand and edit my portfolio of images of Green Book sites and locations with a focus on the American West and its legacy. California has always played a unique part in the American imaginary as modern-day promised land, leisure travel paradise and car culture mecca. I’ll be creating work that provides a more ambiguous counterpoint to this horizon of self-realization and upward mobility from an underrepresented point of view. I will specifically use the unique setting and spaces of the Marin Headlands to engage in portraiture and landscape photography, and capture particular aspects of visibility and reflexivity at stake for mobile people of color, as well as the anomaly and vulnerability of a black landscape photographer trying to access the natural beauty and open vistas of the region.

Selected Works