Neil Cronk is an Austin, Texas based artist with a variety of influences. He’s been deeply influenced by the landscapes of the various places that he’s lived…Central Texas; Southwest and Central Oklahoma; Asheville, North Carolina; and the state of Michoacan in Mexico. Living in Mexico has particularly inspired me. While the United States has become a very modern place, and is very young, Mexico is very old and you can still see ways of doing things, technologies, buildings, and towns that are very old coexisting with the modern. The way that the USA surfs on the wave of the future is wonderful, but it’s always left me longing for a connection with The Long Past…not just some nostalgic past of red barns and cowboys (all pretty recent) but a connection with the long history of human life.
The town I stay in in Mexico, Jacona, Michoacan, celebrated the 453 anniversary of its founding as a Spanish town the year I got there, in 1997. Before that it was Xhucunán (Shoo-ku-naan), a Phurepecha (Native American) town for perhaps 700 years, and a Chichimeca settlement since around 1300 BC. There are buildings older than the United States. The molcajetes (grinding bowls) and metates (a three legged stone table for grinding corn and spices) that the present day people use are indistinguishable from the ones dug up in a nearby archaeological site. The are is rife with volcano cones whose roots reach literally to the center of the Earth. It’s fairly easy to feel deeply connected there, in a way that is very hard here in the USA.
And this is something that lends itself well to interacting with a point of fascination that I have with the world that is the deepest fountain of the themes I use. As humans we live in two worlds: one of spirit, intuition, feeling, just…being; and one of rationality, of geometry, measurement, reason, and planning. We can’t live in only one of those worlds. Through meditation and other means we can get past words and simply be…for a while. And God knows we’ve spent centuries in the West trying to fit ourselves into a purely rational world…to sometimes horrible ends. But we are neither animals nor computers…we’re both. In the USA this can get lost, but in rural Mexico it’s really obvious.
In the fields people build “ranchitos”, little shelters from rain and sun, out of slender tree trunks roofed with a heavy, black tarpaper which wilts in the heat and rain. But they build them to some sort of Platonic, geometric model…four posts, a slanted rectangular roof. In design it’s all rectangles and trapezoids. But, in reality, it’s all twisty tree trunks and branches and soft, wilted paper roofing. They’re reminiscent of the church of San Francisco de Asis in Rancho de Taos, New Mexico…geometric in theory buy much more organically shaped than anything modern America would build. And THAT’S why they’re fascinating…that overlayment of the rational and the artistic, the geometric and the organic that resonates somewhere deep in our souls.
I hope that my art conveys what fascinates me about the meeting of Man and Nature, and the overlapping worlds of ancient tools and modern technologies. Thank you for coming to my website.
Neil H Cronk