Above Photo by Jason Hughes, Modeled by Laura Bautista

Below Photo and essay by Nicelle Davis

Slide Show Photos by Nicelle Davis

Where Bullet Holes Become Stars

My poetic obsession is location–locating oneself in time and place–the power of proximity and the efforts of exchange. The temporal as a gift and curse of every moment lived.

I am located in the Antelope Valley–meaning, I am situated between religious compounds, prisons, schools, aerospace, and Joshua Trees. This isn’t an easy place to live, but I love it. It is a place that reminds me of my favorite poet, Stephen Crane, who writes:

I walked in a desert

I walked in a desert.
And I cried,
“Ah, God, take me from this place!”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”
I cried, “Well, But —
The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon.”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”

The desert where I live is much like a Crane poem–a voice without answers, but a constant unraveling of complications. My favorite Crane poem reads:

In the desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

I carry Crane with me. Everywhere I go, his poems go with me. I sometimes wonder if this is an exchange of time and proximity–if we are all homes to the ghost and dreams of others.

Another artist who helps me understand the desert is Noah Purifoy. Noah Purifoy was introduced to me by poet Ching-In Chen. Ching-In is a great friend and gifts everyone around her with dreams. When I saw what Noah Purifoy was able to achieve with desert trash–the transformation of shadows into sculpture–I found poetry. Poetry is words transformed to images.

To travel between words and images, I asked my dear friends Jason Hughes, Laura Bautista, Larissa Nickel, and Robert Fisher to help me make a 20 foot woman out of desert trash. I stayed up for a week sculpting paper flowers out of a phone book and cut feathers. Jason, Laura, Larissa, and I, set out to erect the structure on December 21st (the end of the world) with the intent of revisiting our twenty foot woman in the new year.

Jason took these amazing pictures of Laura, Larissa, and I as the 20 foot woman. Jason has a keen eye and an understanding of the high desert that I admire. He knew the abandon silo, ridden with bullet holes, would shine like stars as the sun set.

We left her, our 20 foot woman in the desert, to be found by others.

I wanted to see what people would do to her. We left her in a place where she could easily be destroyed. I expected her to be used for target practice or burned to nothing. What I found both delighted and broke me.

She was left untouched. Untouched! All around her was evidence of others–a hallo of empty bullet shells, fresh graffiti, and messaged written in sand by the god kids. Most tender and shattering was an empty paint can and dirty towel. A group of huffers had gathered at her implied feet–burn their heads by breathing fumes. What did the see? Whatever they saw, she remained untouched as a holly relic. “They” who found her, are a voice without answers, a voice without answers, but a constant unraveling of complications.