Thursday, December 10, 2009
Road Signs along US Route 89
One of my ongoing projects is a collaboration with my husband, the photographer James Cowlin. He got fascinated by US Route 89 about 10 years ago, when he realized that it goes through some of the most beautiful countryside in the United States. The road traverses 1300 miles, from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. He has spent years photographing along the road, developing a comprehensive website, and working to promote an appreciation for the lesser known places between the big cities and national parks along the way.
Because we've spent so much time traveling along this road, it stands to reason that my artwork has become something of a reflection of this long highway. I've spent most of my adult life along 89, married, birthed and raised two children, worked, gone to school, taught school, and made my art practically right smack on top of US Route 89.
When I was teaching Visual Literacy, a kind of hybrid Graphic Design class, I got fascinated with signs and symbols. Road signs are the ubiquitous symbols we all see every day. We don't ignore them, because they are important to our safety, but I'm guessing I've spent more time than most ruminating about road signs.
How is it that a simple silhouette can convey so much information? Who creates these symbols? How are they tested?
I'm sure a bit of research would give me the answers, but I prefer to marvel at the signs and to wonder. What's the story behind the momma bear ushering her baby to safety across the road? Do I detect a gentleness in her gesture?
Is the symbol maker aware of the implications of this curvy arrow. Imagine the many trips with small children. This is truly the sign of impending disaster. Just be sure to have the barf bags handy.
And here we have the intrepid firefighter. A bit difficult to see (above) but I love his determined posture and the dignity with which he wears his firefighter hat.
Here's the farmer on his tractor, slowing travel to a snails pace. It's a great chance to admire the fields with their neat rows of plants, before safely passing this machine. Note the jaunty brim on the farmers hat. I can almost image his satisfaction as he causes a minor traffic jam in the middle of nowhere.
The ultimate symbol, the US Route 89 road sign.
Sometimes I like to take a break from my serious paintings. I like boxes. I like road signs. So what you see are a series of boxes with road signs. I plan to make lots more, as I encounter charming signs during our travels.
If you find these irresistible, you can buy them on our website. Just head to our online store.
Posted by Barbara Cowlin